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A Good Step: The Air Force is asking for nearly $9 billion in Fiscal 2010 for its portfolio of space programs, Gary Payton, USAF’s space czar, told reporters yesterday in the Pentagon. The request is roughly several hundred millions dollars more than what was appropriated for space in this fiscal year, he said. And, it represents slightly less than eight percent of the $115.6 billion that the Air Force seeks from Congress next fiscal year for service-specific projects. Payton characterized the space budget proposal as “a good step towards recognizing that space is a contested environment and we are standing behind our commitment to deliver the space capabilities in that environment.” Continuity of the services provided by USAF’s space systems is the top priority and since “you cannot really have continuity of service if you are not protected,” areas like space situational awareness receive funding boosts in the request, he said. He noted that the Air Force, working with the National Reconnaissance Office, is “architecting the best space protection program” so that there can be “a higher confidence of delivery” of space capabilities “even in a contested environment.”