Space Force to reorganize its acquisition command to ‘focus on the threat’

by
Guetlein wants “system of systems integration.” The previous organization focused on “system by system and not an integrated capability”

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Space Systems Command — the Space Force organization that oversees procurement of new technology — is being restructured in an effort to re-energize the bureaucracy and bring fresh focus on the competition with China, officials said March 4.

Space Force leaders unveiled details of the reorganization at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond said he and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall directed a review of Space Systems Command shortly after SSC was established in August. 

Following a 90-day review, the head of Space Systems Command Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein proposed a new structure built around five program executive offices: Assured Access to Space; Battle Management Command, Control, and Communications (BMC3); Space Domain Awareness and Combat Support; Communications & Positioning Navigation and Timing (PNT); and Space Sensing.

The five PEOs will report directly to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration — a civilian acquisition office within Kendall’s office. Former National Reconnaissance Office executive Frank Calvelli was named to that post and is awaiting Senate confirmation.

Guetlein said his primary job will be “system of systems integration.” One of the issues he identified in the previous organization was that it focused on “system by system and not an integrated capability.”

Kendall summed up the problem with current space acquisitions: “Overall, we start more programs than we can afford, and we don’t prioritize the most promising ones early so that we can ensure they cross the valley of death to production and fielding,” Kendall said. “We still have too much bureaucracy.” Over the past 30 years, he said, “the U.S. has not stood still, but we have not moved fast enough.”

Need to ‘think differently’ 

The challenges posed by Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons require “a whole different way of looking at the problem,” Guetlein said in an interview with SpaceNews.

The Space Systems Command was stood up in August 2021 and replaced the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) which was first established in 1954.

A former deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office, Guetlein was put in charge of a massive organization with approximately $11 billion in annual spending and nearly 10,000 personnel.

Guetlein said he wants PEOs to think beyond just widgets and stand-along pieces of hardware, and take a big-picture approach to the mission that needs to be performed with the equipment.

The SSC overhaul reverses the previous SMC structure — dubbed SMC 2.0 — that the Air Force conceived in 2018 and completed by 2019. Under SMC 2.0 programs were overseen by five major offices: a portfolio architect, a development corps, a production corps, an enterprise corps and an office of special programs.

The SMC 2.0 structure focused on the life cycle of a program. So every program that was in the development stage was under one bucket, he explained. And every program that was in production was under another bucket. “And what we quickly found when we stood up Space Systems Command was that we had created a whole lot of artificial seams between programs.”

That type of organization had some benefits but ultimately slowed SMC’s ability to rapidly respond to the threat with an “end-to-end capability,” Guetlein said. The focus was on the rapid delivery of stand-alone systems, but created challenges in integrating those systems into a network, which is what DoD needs to fight in today’s information-centric battlefield.

“I want the entire command focused on the threat and countering the threat,” he said. This requires “unprecedented levels of integration and networking.”

Under the SMC 2.0 structure, he said, there were six program offices responsible for delivering various elements of the missile-warning satellite constellation, but none of the PEOs were responsible for integrating all of the elements into a larger capability. “This is the problem that the secretary asked us to address,” said Guetlein.

The integration of systems across the Department of the Air Force space programs will be a major priority, said Guetlein. What was previously SMC’s portfolio architect is being renamed the Space Systems Integration Office and will be responsible for managing the integration and sequencing of space programs.

The Space Force in January hired Claire Leon, a former Boeing executive who previously led the national security space launch program, to run this new office. 

Brig. Gen. Steven Whitney, military deputy at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, told reporters March 4 that the restructuring of Space Systems Command is “the logical evolution of building a world class command. They’re specifically focused on the threat, agile decision making, fostering partnerships with our allies and our commercial partners, and they’re going to be delivering a unique and integrated unity of effort and I think that’s really the key.”