Space Force procurement command trying to bring ‘unity of effort’ to space programs

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Space Systems Command created a Space Systems Integration Office led by former launch enterprise director Claire Leon

CHANTILLY, Va. — Claire Leon, a former Boeing executive who previously led the national security space launch program, is now in charge of a new office that will coordinate military space programs across multiple organizations. 

Leon was named director of the Space Systems Command’s Space Systems Integration Office. Hiring Leon to lead this new office is a “huge win for SSC,” Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein said Feb. 23 at the National Security Space Association’s Defense and Intelligence Space Conference. 

Guetlein, commander of Space Systems Command, is a former deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office and has been in charge of SSC since August. The command is a massive organization with an $11 billion annual budget and nearly 10,000 personnel. 

A key goal of SSC is to accelerate the pace of procurement programs so technologies get “into the hands of warfighters” sooner rather than later, Guetlein said. One of the challenges is that space programs have stakeholders across multiple agencies in the Space Force, the Air Force and the Department of Defense. SSC also wants to integrate allied nations’ space technologies into U.S. programs. 

What is needed is “unity of effort” so space programs move in the same direction and don’t get bogged down in analysis, reviews and bureaucratic in-fighting, said Guetlein. 

Leon’s job will require coordinating projects not just within SSC, but across the entire space enterprise, he said. “Her job is to do horizontal integration across systems to make sure that we’re actually delivering capabilities” rather than just hardware.

The systems integration office will have a broad portfolio that is still being defined, Guetlein said. “I think we’re going to get an enormous amount of lift at that organization. That’s something we have never had in the past, somebody looking across the horizon.”

An effort to improve coordination across space organizations started two years ago when the Space Force stood up a “program integration council” that includes the Space Systems Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Missile Defense Agency, the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the Space Development Agency and the Space Warfighting Analysis Center. 

“Unity of effort was a foreign concept to us at the time,” said Guetlein, noting that military organizations have a hard time with horizontal integration. “We are classically trained. The military is classically trained on unity of command,” he said. “I can look up above me to understand who’s in charge.”

The problem in acquisitions is that they are spread across multiple organizational boundaries. The coordination done via the council “has been going extremely well,” he said. “We meet once a month. We have already been talking about data standards.”

The first major initiative handled by the council is how to integrate missile warning and missile tracking satellites overseen by different agencies. “I have never seen greater collaboration amongst those organizations in my career prior to standing up a program integration council,” said Guetlein. 

“We’ve got to keep that dialogue going,” he added. “When we talk about architectures, it really comes down to how do I integrate, how do I network? How do I better get data from point A to point B, and make maximum use of that data?”

‘Getting after the threat’

Guetlein said he is pushing the message across the SSC workforce that their focus has to be on “getting after the threat” posed by Russia and China. These nations’ anti-satellite weapons are a “massive threat to our way of life,” he said. “And we are behind the power curve in delivering capability” to counter those threats. 

Because of the lengthy DoD budget cycles and requirements approval process, new capabilities can’t happen overnight, so Guetlein set a 2026 goal for SSC to deliver technologies that will make U.S. satellites more resilient to attacks. 

“The only way we’re gonna get this done by 2026 is by maximizing the capability that we already have today,” said Guetlein. “That means we got to squeeze every bit of juice out of the systems that we have today,” he said. 

“That means I’m going to be asking for a heck of a lot more heroics from our sustainers. I’m going to be asking for commercial services. I’m going to be looking at our allies to say hey, what can you bring to the fight? How can I better integrate what I already have?”