COLORADO SPRINGS — Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said it might be time for the Defense Department to start more open discussions about the national security challenges the United States faces in the space domain.
“There are things having to do with threats from near-peer adversaries that the public needs to know about,” Lamborn told SpaceNews.
Lamborn chairs the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee which oversees missile defense, national security space and nuclear weapons programs.
The “overclassification” of military space programs and policy discussions has been a concern on Capitol Hill for some time, Lamborn noted. It’s a priority for HASC chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) because classification restricts the committee’s ability to share information with colleagues across the House and Senate, Lamborn said.
“We’re just trying to raise awareness on the issue,” he said.
A key problem is what some officials consider overuse of the “noforn” label on documents meaning they cannot be shared with foreign governments even if they are close allies.
“Our foreign partners can’t work on joint projects with us,” Lamborn said.
In conversations with Space Force officials and other leaders, Lamborn has tried to convey to them that the public and Congress at large should be better informed about the national security risks posed by rival powers that are deploying anti-satellite weapons.
If the U.S. military were denied access to satellite services, the consequences would be severe, officials have warned. But not a lot of details are provided on the nature of these threats due to classification.
“The public and my colleagues in Congress who are not on the armed services committees need to know the seriousness of the threats,” he said. That would also help them understand why DoD is spending billions of dollars on programs to counter these threats.
The HASC is not ready to put forth specific legislation or language on this but “we keep telling them ‘let’s not overclassify,’” Lamborn said. “We’re tracking this really closely, and it’s something that we’re going to make a priority.”
Space Force ‘making progress’ on procurement reforms
Lamborn said he is optimistic about the work being done by the Space Force to streamline and accelerate space acquisitions to stay ahead of adversaries like China.
But more change needs to happen, he said. In meetings with space industry firms at the 38th Space Symposium, Lamborn said he heard concerns from companies about the military procurement system being stuck in its ways.
Space Force leaders, including senior procurement executive Frank Calvelli, have briefed the strategic forces subcommittee on new initiatives to bring more innovation into space programs, Lamborn said.
“I think he’s off to a great start on what he’s doing,” he said of Calvelli. “We’re watching closely to make sure things are on track.”
Calvelli has proposed a faster approach to buying satellites, using commercial products and procuring them under fixed-price contracts. Lamborn said he is willing to give the Space Force some time to implement this plan and show results.
“I think we’re making progress with space acquisition, I think it’s still early in the game but some good things are happening,” he said. “We’re ready to jump in with legislation if needed.”
Lamborn said he had no updates on what the Department of the Air Force is doing with regard to the location of U.S. Space Command, which is currently based in Colorado Springs.
He and other lawmakers from the state have pushed back on the decision by the Trump administration to relocate the command to Huntsville, Alabama. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the final basing decision is still under review.