Senate appropriators are overall supportive of the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) research-and-development effort, and want to provide additional funds in fiscal year 2020 to further refine the concept and find technology solutions.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY ’20 defense spending bill, which was voted out of committee Sept. 12, added several million dollars for the service to conduct additional requirements refinement and technology identification.

The Air Force requested $36.5 million in the FY ’20 presidential budget request for ABMS research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E). The Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill adds an additional $8 million, bringing the total up to $43.6 million.

“The Committee supports the Air Force’s long-term vision of resilient and survivable networks against near peer competitors,” appropriators said in the fiscal year 2020 committee report, provided to reporters on Thursday. “However, the Committee is concerned with the near-term requirements of the first phase, given disconnects between the Air Force’s congressional reports on ABMS and the fiscal year 2020 budget request.”

In order to quell their concerns, appropriators also directed the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report “summarizing all related programs in communications, battle management command and control, and sensors that fall within the ABMS umbrella” over the next five years. Lawmakers also want an update on all ABMS phase one efforts, including initial operational capability timelines, the status of legacy activities and linkages to classified activities, per the report.

The Air Force introduced the ABMS concept in 2017 as it proposed canceling a planned recapitalization program for its aging Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft, instead calling for the creation of a “system of systems” network employing various platforms to perform airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and battlefield command-and-control missions.

The increase from Senate appropriators differs from the amount included in the House-passed defense spending bill. The House Appropriations Committee’s FY ’20 defense spending bill decreased the proposed funding amount for ABMS, citing a lack of a clear execution plan (Defense Daily, May 20). The Senate Armed Services Committee’s National Defense Authorization Act bill, which passed the full Senate in June, authorized an addition $49 million for ABMS over the requested amount.

The Air Force has projected spending $648 million on ABMS R&D efforts over the five-year future years defense plan (FYDP) (Defense Daily, March 19). An analysis of alternatives that was expected to be released this summer was delayed by several months, Air Combat Command Commander Gen. Mike Holmes said in August (Defense Daily, Aug. 21).

Meanwhile, the approved SAC defense bill cuts $40 million from the Air Force’s proposal for Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) research-and-development funds in FY ’20, citing a classified reduction. While service officials have remained tight-lipped on what NGAD entails, it is understood to encompass new fighter aircraft technology developments as well as other next-generation R&D.