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In a keynote address at the 35th Space Symposium, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan laid out his most forceful case so far for the establishment of a new military branch for space.
Shanahan argued that standing up a Space Force — along with a U.S. Space Command and a Space Development Agency — is what it will take to ensure the United States stays ahead of adversaries that are advancing their space capabilities. And he cast the issue as a matter of national and economic security.
Most of the substance of Shanahan’s remarks were about the Space Development Agency, a new organization stood up March 12 and led by former DARPA official Fred Kennedy. Shanahan has made the new agency one of his signature issues. The work of the SDA is not just important to national security but also to the nation’s space economy, he said.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan
The Space Development Agency is “what I call the pacing element of our plan,” he said. “The SDA will focus on developing and delivering the next generation of space-based communications and earth observation, while existing organizations continue their current efforts.”
SDA will “harness the innovation and investment that is taking place in commercial space,” said Shanahan. “DoD must leverage the private sector investment. … Our space R&D needs to include our own research and development as well as ‘rip off and deploy’ commercial market innovations.”