WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced Oct. 30 it has established the office of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy, a new post that Congress directed in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

In a memo Oct. 29, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said the new position will be filled by Justin Johnson, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy. 

“The establishment of the assistant secretary of defense for space policy is a change of the civilian oversight of the space enterprise,” Norquist said in the memo. 

A permanent assistant secretary will be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Gregory Pejic, a special assistant to Norquist, will serve as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy until an individual is appointed to the position.

The new position will be responsible for the “overall supervision of DoD policy for space warfighting” and for interagency coordination and international engagement on space policy and strategy, said Norquist’s memo. The assistant secretary for space policy reports to the undersecretary of defense for policy.

Defense analyst Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said DoD is implementing legislation that reflects Congress’ interest in making sure there is senior civilian leadership in DoD for space. 

“I think it reflects that fact that space policy is of increasing importance to DoD and warrants an incrementally higher level position within the bureaucracy,” Harrison said. “I wouldn’t expect this change alone to have much effect on policies, but it tilts the balance more in favor of elevating and advancing space policy issues over the long term.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...