Booz Allen Hamilton pursuing growth in military space programs
WASHINGTON — Management and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton is actively making moves in the national security space sector. The company is expanding its presence in Colorado Springs, home of the Air Force Space Command, and hired retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan as senior vice president to lead the expansion.
In an interview with SpaceNews on Wednesday, Bogdan said the company is targeting the ground-based portion of military space systems. Many space programs across DoD and the intelligence community are transitioning from legacy systems that are expensive to update to newer open architectures where software applications can be quickly uploaded. Satellite ground control stations, data analytics and cybersecurity are areas where Booz Allen sees opportunities to increase its business, Bogdan said.
“We don’t build satellites, rockets or rovers,” he said. “We are investing in open architectures, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data visualization.”
“When I talk to General Raymond [commander of U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command] and other senior leaders in the space world, they tell me one of the things that commanders don’t have is a good way to visualize what’s going on in space,” Bogdan said. “When I was in the Air Force and we went to combat with air assets we generally had a pretty good idea of what was out there from our visualization tools. We don’t have a whole lot of that in space.”
As a former program manager of the Air Force’s KC-46 aerial refueling tanker and program executive officer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Bogdan gained deep knowledge of how the defense industry works. He was struck by the way large companies are organized into multiple business units that operate independently and don’t communicate with the government with a single voice. Booz Allen, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, operates as a single entity even though it’s a large company of 25,000 employees and $6.5 billion a year in revenue. “We don’t have separate business units that compete against each,” he said. “We’re one unit, so we can move around people, resources across the company very quickly. We believe that is a huge differentiator.”
A key lesson Bogdan said he learned working on the tanker and F-35 programs is that defense systems have to be designed so they are compatible with commercial technologies. That applies to space as well, he said. “Commercial space will be part of the solution. There has to be some public-private partnerships going on.” One of the most troubled pieces of the F-35 program was its logistics and maintenance system, known as ALIS, which needed to connect to the systems of F-35 partner countries. Because of the stringent security imposed by the U.S. government, the use of ALIS created huge burdens for the partner countries. The same applies to space programs, he said. “If we want to leverage commercial, we have to figure out how to share information and not overburden them … DoD is going to have to make sure that any connections sharing data, platforms or hosted payloads are secure but at the same time not so secure that our partners are not going to want to do what needs to be done.”
Satellite ground systems across DoD and intelligence agencies are poised for a huge transformation into open systems, Bogdan said. “The aggregation and fusion of information to create a picture for command and control decision making is an important element, and it’s where we’re trying to invest and move into.”
Booz Allen is hoping to become the prime contractor for the new ground system the Air Force is developing for its missile warning satellites — the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) and the next-generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (next-gen OPIR). The company designed one of three ground system prototypes that will be competing in a project called Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution, or FORGE. The other two contenders are BAE Systems and Raytheon. Northrop Grumman was also in the running but dropped out and joined Booz Allen’s team
The three teams designed FORGE prototypes under cost-sharing Other Transaction Authority contracts managed by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Enterprise Consortium.
The companies will reveal their designs to Air Force leaders in September. The plan is to replace the existing SBIRS ground system made by Lockheed Martin. The current system is costly and increasingly difficult to update. Because it is not an open architecture, the Air Force is not able to insert fresh software on a regular basis.
Bogdan said FORGE was designed as an open architecture for the OPIR mission but it could also be adapted for other national security satellite systems or even for NASA or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration programs. “We made it so that third party apps can integrate safely and quickly.”
Booz Allen also sees growing opportunities as the military beefs up its space command centers. It won a contract last year to help stand up the classified National Space Defense Center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. As U.S. Space Command takes shape, said Bogdan, “these kinds of programs is where Booz Allen is looking to prime.”