Space Force to deliver report to Congress on proposed changes to acquisitions
WASHINGTON — Space Force officials have been working to meet required congressional report deadlines even as DoD business and operations across the board are being disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
A report due to Congress on March 31 will recommend changes to how Space Force procurement programs are funded and managed. The report is in final draft and on track to be delivered on time, Shawn Barnes, head of the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, told SpaceNews March 18.
Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond will review the report before it goes to the office of the Secretary of Defense and the White House for final approval.
“So far the COVID-19 hasn’t slowed that down,” said Barnes. Meetings are being conducted by phone and video as many DoD offices are teleworking. One concern is that some of the discussions associated with the report include classified information and cannot be done on cell phones or home computers. That means some officials still have to come into the Pentagon for classified meetings which can only be attended by small groups, Barnes said.
Congress in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Secretary of the Air Force to propose an “alternative space acquisition system.” Congress has been critical of the Pentagon’s acquisition bureaucracy and said it would consider alternative approaches so the U.S. Space Force can more quickly procure next-generation technology.
Congress is now consumed with legislation in response to the coronavirus crisis and it’s likely that Space Force hearings and other non-coronavirus business will be delayed. Nevertheless, Barnes said the plan is to “continue to deliver reports on time as best we can with all things being considered.”
Any language to change Space Force acquisitions would be considered by defense committees for the 2021 NDAA.
Barnes said he could not discuss the specific recommendations of a draft report. Broadly speaking, the report proposes changes in how requirements for future systems are defined and approved, and how those systems are funded, he said. “It will be a very important report.”
The NDAA requires the Air Force to nominate an assistant secretary for space acquisition and integration to oversee all space acquisitions. Barnes said the report will recommend ways to simplify the acquisition process and to eliminate layers of bureaucracy.
Barnes’ office also is working with the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency on a separate report due to Congress in September explaining how multiple organizations that currently oversee missile-warning satellite programs plan to synchronize efforts in the future.
The 2020 defense appropriations bill requires a study on an “integrated overhead persistent infrared architecture.” Constellations of satellites that use infrared sensors to detect missile launches are being developed by the Space Force, by the Space Development Agency and by the Missile Defense Agency.
Barnes said all agencies will be “working on that study jointly.”