WASHINGTON — There’s a role for commercial in every mission area of the U.S. Space Force, says the new service’s portfolio architect.
While commercial services have played a significant role in the military’s satellite communications and launch enterprises, the Space Force has not integrated commercial services more widely, said Col. Russell Teehan, portfolio architect at the Space and Missile Systems Center. But as the service begins looking at its future plans, it sees industry as a much bigger partner.
“As we go through the force design for the next 10 years, commercial is vital across every mission area,” said Teehan. “In nearly every mission area, we’re looking for rapid tech innovation. We’re looking for hybrid architectures. And in a lot of cases, we’re looking for commercial partnerships that lead us directly to allied partnerships in many of these areas.”
“Priorities in the past have been wideband SATCOM, launch, space domain awareness — but we’re seeing significant growth on the Space Force side for going after ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], weather, more launch, logistics, servicing — and so you’re starting to see a large growth. It’s no longer going to be, ‘Which areas are using commercials?’ All areas are going commercial, and right now it’s not a matter of when are we doing it, it’s how we do it, and how we do it rapidly so that we can have the Space Force acquire at the speed that commercial is already going,” he added.
Part of that effort, said Teehan, is creating more opportunities to work with small and nontraditional vendors.
“The old ecosystem was geared towards large primes that have eight to 15-year toeholds within a mission area or with a particular system, and the small businesses were in small business innovation research, and their only hope of coming up was to be integrated into some of those larger primes,” said Teehan. “But a lot of the ecosystems we’re working with now, we’re trying to offer opportunities — like in software programs — where the small businesses can come directly into the ecosystem and into the market.”
The Space Force is working to open up more opportunities and engage with small businesses and nontraditional vendors, said Teehan. Events like Space Pitch Day, where companies can present their ideas and technologies to government officials and win contracts instantly in a “Shark Tank”-style event, give small businesses the chance to interact with officials and learn about their needs.
While those sorts of events have opened new doors, one thing Teehan would like to see is more interactions between operators and industry.
“That’s what the Army does really well. When the Army comes back from deployment, they go straight to one of the industry teams. The industry team invites another 10 industry teams, and they talk about what they wish they would have had in theater.”
Those sorts of touchpoints help companies learn what operators want in a way that requirements sometimes don’t. In addition to fostering more contract opportunities for small businesses, Teehan wants the Space Force to create more engagements like that between guardians and all industry partners.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond has emphasized that the Space Force needs to build stronger ties to industry in year two.
“We want to build a very fused connection with commercial industry. We’re a small service and we think we can do that,” said Raymond. “The explosion of commercial space … provides us a great opportunity.”
Nathan Strout was the staff editor at C4ISRNET, where he covered the intelligence community.