WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense has signed a memorandum of agreement to begin shifting responsibilities for managing space traffic to the Department of Commerce.

Don Graves, deputy secretary of commerce, announced the agreement Friday during a National Space Council meeting in Houston. The document formalizes the partnership between both agencies on the space monitoring mission, according to a press release.

The memorandum follows the release of Space Policy Directive-3, a 2018 instruction from then-President Donald Trump that called on the organizations to collaborate on advancing space domain awareness and space traffic management technology, make the associated data publicly available and improve interoperability. It also directed the Commerce Department to take responsibility for managing space object warning and tracking, meant to free up the Defense Department to focus on the threat environment.

“We are pleased to partner with [the Commerce Department] on this effort and look to broaden our relationship with industry, allies and partners to help achieve the objectives of SPD-3,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb said in a statement. “We also take this opportunity to encourage and invite commercial or other partners who can assist in this effort.”

Plumb, along with U.S. Space Command and Space Force leaders and Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Rick Spinrad, signed the memorandum.

While the agreement creates an initial framework for cooperation between the departments, there is still work to be done to fully implement SPD-3. Breaking Defense reported in June the agreement would be followed by more detailed annexes that lay out how DoD will share resources with the Commerce Department as they create a new office to manage the effort.

A spokesperson for U.S. Space Command told told C4ISRNET the MOA is “a first step in shifting the responsibility for routine tracking of space objects to a civil authority.”

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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