WASHINGTON — U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett’s space adviser Shawn Barnes has emerged as a main point man in the standup of the U.S. Space Force as a separate military branch under the Department of the Air Force.
Barnes has been Barrett’s right hand on all things space since she took office in October and worked with her during the confirmation process.
The organization of the U.S. Space Force headquarters and of a new office to oversee space acquisitions are both being coordinated by Barnes.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 signed by President Trump on Dec. 20, enacted the U.S. Space Force and also created the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration.
The NDAA requires that the acquisition and integration office be led by a political appointee who has to be confirmed by the Senate. Barnes will run that office for the time being. In a Jan. 28 statement provided by an Air Force spokesman, Barnes said no decision has been made on the selection of the new assistant secretary.
Barrett has to deliver a report to Congress by March 31 on the status of the acquisitions office.
Barnes was previously the deputy to John Stopher, the principal assistant to the secretary of the Air Force for space. He became the acting principal assistant after Stopher stepped down in July.
With a staff of about 75 people, Barnes’ office is now the central coordinator between Space Force personnel in the Pentagon and in Colorado Springs. Barnes is helping to organize the E-Ring office of Gen. John Raymond, the U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, which will be the service headquarters.
The assistant secretary for acquisition and integration was created by Congress to oversee U.S. Space Force procurements under a chain of command that would be separate from Air Force acquisition programs.
Congress added the word “integration” to the title to put more emphasis on unifying space procurement efforts that currently are spread out across several organizations.
Barnes wants agencies to collaborate on broad guidelines for a future space architecture. He said he plans to host an “architecture enterprise summit” in mid-February. “The summit will bring together key organizations with architecture responsibilities to define a common lexicon, address architecture roles and responsibilities, and facilitate an integrated national security space architecture,” Barnes said in the statement. The goal is over the next six months to reach consensus on a “single, DoD-wide architecture for the space-based elements of missile warning and missile defense”
The new acquisition office will review the portfolios of the Space and Missile Systems Center, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office and the Space Development Agency, Barnes said. The latter currently reports to the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering but will be realigned under the U.S. Space Force in the near future.
The three space procurement agencies will have to coordinate projects to avoid duplication when possible, he said. “There may be areas where we want developmental overlap, competition, or alternative approaches between and among acquisition centers, but we should do this in a purposeful manner,” said Barnes. “We must avoid inadvertent redundancy in our capability development and we must assure we make best use of our people, our time and taxpayer dollars.”
The NDAA directed Barrett to stand up an advisory group called the Space Force Acquisition Council. The council is being formed but has not met yet, said Barnes. “My intent would be to meet in February to review a charter and provide an initial look at an alternative acquisition system for space.”
Barnes was scheduled to travel to Colorado Springs this week for a meeting of U.S. Space Command and allied space officials. Partner nations were invited to attend a workshop to discuss space architectures and capabilities to support different mission areas.