The process of producing space and ground systems that support the DoD space mission is known as space acquisition. The Space Systems Command (SSC), under the direction of Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, is at the center of all military space acquisition activities. A command restructuring received Guetlein’s approval in March. The venerable company, with its headquarters in Los Angeles, had undergone three redesigns as of 2019.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s presented 2023 National Defense Authorization Act instructs the Pentagon to review its space program acquisition procedures, specifically to determine whether the current method is “agile enough for the rapid growth advancement of space acquisition processes to keep speed with today’s space industry.”
Before sending the legislation to the Senate floor, the SASC gave it its a blessing on June 16 and made the complete text available on July 18. The committee notes in a report that the NDAA that amidst congressional efforts to combine space acquisition authority from multiple departments under a new civilian leader, it is still unclear if these reforms are having the desired effects.
The Defense Innovation Board and Defense Business Board must conduct a joint review as per the bill’s directive. Insights and suggestions are given to the secretary of defense by these groups of business and technology experts.
According to the SASC study, the 2020 NDAA enacted a “fundamental reorganization of the Department of Defense’s conduct of space operations and the procurement to support those operations.” A separate service acquisition executive for space was also established by the legislation that founded the US Space. The committee claims that the main goal was to concentrate the military forces’ space acquisition under the space SAE.
The Space Development Agency was transferred from the Secretary of Defense Office to the Space Force under the 2021 NDAA, and the Space SAE was given control over the SDA, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), and the Space Systems Command (SSC).
The 2022 NDAA consolidated space acquisition even more and elevated the position of the space SAE to oversee space acquisition for all branches of the American military forces. It changed the name of the Space Force Acquisition Council to the Space Acquisition Council as well as gave it the power to evaluate all military space acquisition initiatives.
The SASC states that these three successive NDAAs have led to a “fundamental overhaul of space acquisition for the armed forces.” The committee asserts, however, that it is unclear whether these congressional initiatives have improved the agility or efficiency of space acquisitions.
The committee is concerned about the fact that senior acquisition leaders still describe the space acquisition procedure as a “unity of endeavor between the SSC, SDA, Space RCO, and Missile Defense Agency.” Before imposing any further changes to the NDAA, the SASC wants to hear from the Defense Innovation Board and the Defense Business Board to get their new perspectives.
According to the SASC, the boards will be requested to “examine the unity of attempt decision-making process… and whether the oneness of effort procedure is agile sufficient for the rapid development of space acquisition technologies to stay up with today’s space business.” The two boards must weigh all options, from keeping the current unity of effort framework to creating a new strategy for space acquisition. By March 31, 2023, the SASC expects the advisory boards to submit a report.