WASHINGTON ― The Department of Defense is, once again, exploring possible ways to reform its space acquisition system to shrink the time it takes to deliver new capabilities to space.
A DoD memo, first reported by Defense One and independently obtained by Defense News, proposes several changes, such as creating a combatant command for space and restructuring the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC). The memo was delivered to Congress March 1.
Air Force SMC and the Rapid Capabilities Office currently manage about 90 percent of the Defense Space portfolio, including early missile warning satellites, position, navigation and timing assets and space launch systems. According to the document, Pentagon officials are concerned that the current product-aligned approach to space acquisition leads to truncated and stovepiped thinking that fails to consider the space system enterprise as a whole.
“This structure creates natural barriers to developing alternative ideas, exploring different concepts, and ultimately, providing competitive forces to create substantial improvements in speed, cost, and performance,” the report says. “By shifting from a mission-area focus to an enterprise management style, SMC could realize greater acquisition agility, innovation, and resource efficiencies.”
Under the current structure, it often takes seven years or more to deliver new capabilities, the report said. By making changes to the acquisition system, the Pentagon hopes to decrease this time to three years, according to the memo.
Another solution is to increase the number of partnerships with the space industrial base. While continuing to do business with the largest, most established defense companies, the report says the Pentagon, “will also tap into the resurgence of the commercial space industry and make it easier for commercial space firms to do business with DoD,” as well as “seek out and encourage small businesses that can provide high technology innovation.”
The report also teases the possibility of establishing a combatant command for space operations. Because of the pervasive utility of space assets across the services, the Pentagon is considering how “best to posture joint space forces to support joint campaigns, including those that are integrated trans-regionally from across two or more geographic combatant commands, multi-domain operations, and warfighting in the space domain.”
An alternative concept, establishing a Space Corps within the Air Force, failed to make it out of the House Armed Services Committee last year, but the idea still has its champions. House Armed Services Strategic Forces Ranking Member Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and the subcommittee’s chairman, Mike Rogers, R-Ala., have expressed concern that anti-satellite and electronic warfare weapons being developed by China and Russia could make the United States “deaf, dumb, and blind within seconds.”
Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.