Air Force claims accomplishments in Space C2 program in wake of critical report

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The Air Force has submitted an acquisition strategy for the Space C2 program which is now being reviewed by the Pentagon

WASHINGTON — Following the release of a critical congressional report on the Space Command and Control program, the Air Force says it has been working with the Pentagon to address the concerns raised by the Government Accountability Office.

GAO in an Oct. 30 report criticized the program known as Space C2 for lacking an acquisition strategy and called for greater Pentagon oversight. The Air Force launched the program just over a year ago to replace the long-troubled Joint Space Operations Center Mission System, or JMS.

Col. Jennifer Krolikowski, senior materiel leader for Space C2 at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, told SpaceNews Oct. 31 that she did not disagree with the GAO assessment but insisted that the Air Force already has moved to fix the problems highlighted in the report.

Under the Space C2 program, the Air Force is developing software applications used by military commanders and analysts to monitor and understand what is happening in space. JMS failed because it was managed like a traditional monolithic DoD software development program, and was chronically late and over budget. Space C2 uses commercial agile software development methods where engineers make rapid changes, ask for user feedback and adjust the software for the next increment.

Krolikowski, who has been in charge of Space C2 since August 2018, said new software applications are being delivered every few months to commanders and analysts at military space command centers at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

She said GAO had no issues with the actual software or the agile development methods but questioned the lack of a formal acquisition strategy, which is required for every DoD program.

“We have an acquisition strategy already written and in coordination with the Air Force and the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” Krolikowski said. Air Force officials will be meeting Nov. 26 with Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord to discuss the strategy, she said.

Lord has been a proponent of agile software development and had led a DoD-wide review of software acquisition practices. “My program is a pathfinder for them to help other programs and identify problems,” said Krolikowski.

An acquisition strategy lays out procedures for contracting, testing and setting program requirements. Although agile software development has been commonplace in the private sector for years, it is a relatively new practice in DoD. The acquisition strategy for Space C2 has to explain how those practices will be implemented.

Krolikowski highlighted some new products delivered by Space C2:

• A High-Interest Event Tracker that allows operators to monitor, track, and display information regarding potential satellite conjunctions, space launches, satellite de-orbits, re-entries, and other high interest space events. The tracker was be pursued by JMS but it was too complex and had hardly any users. Krolikowski said that after the release of the new version, 600 users signed up.

• A Radio Frequency Deconfliction tool that provides a consolidated workflow that reduces the time it takes to process radio frequency deconfliction requests.

• A software tool for intelligence analysts that helps them manage data collection taskings for ground based radars and other sensors. Krolikowski called this a “dynamic sensor planning tool” designed to produce better intelligence about the space environment.