After much discussion from policymakers, lawmakers, industry and academia, the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) instituted the most sweeping changes to the organization and management of the U.S. space enterprise since the Honorable Donald Rumsfeld Commissions of 2001 and 2007. While falling short of establishing a separate Space Corps (an idea championed by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), among others), the NDAA did direct significant restructuring at both the Pentagon and Air Force Space Command. Further, it also requires the Deputy Secretary of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate military department responsible for the DoD’s national security activities in space by Dec. 31, 2018, keeping the door open for even more dramatic reorganizations.
Overall, the intent of Congress was to reduce the bureaucracy related to decisions within the space enterprise, centralize authority and decision-making over space activities, while leaving the door open to more drastic reform down the road.
At the Pentagon, in the midst of implementing sweeping changes at the DoD Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), Congress terminated the Principal DoD Space Advisor (PDSA), Air Force Space Operations Directorate (A-11), and the Defense Space Council (DSC). It is unclear at this point what new office would assume the duties of these organizations, but the Deputy Secretary of Defense is responsible for the efficient reorganization within the DoD.
The NDAA also dramatically empowers the Commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) with substantial authority over space activities.
In December, the AFSPC Commander became dual-hatted as the Joint Force Space Component Commander (JFSCC) under Air Force General John Hyten, Commander of US Strategic Command. This move consolidates the organize, train, and equip responsibilities under one commander, and elevates the operational level of command of the Forces to a four-star commander.
Along with JFSCC and AFSPC train, organize and equip duties, General Raymond and his successors now have responsibility for procuring all commercial satellite communications, as well as leading the re-named Space Rapid Capabilities Office (formerly the Operationally Responsive Space Office). At the discretion of the Secretary of the Air Force, General Raymond may service as the Service Acquisition Executive as well.
It remains to be seen how exactly these transitions will be made, but it is clear the Pentagon and AFSPC Commander now hold much of the future of the DoD space enterprise in their hands.
This reorganization represents a substantial turning point for the entire space industry. As the new authorities over space activities are instituted, all relevant stakeholders – including industry, academia, the legislative and executive branch – must work together to provide support and expertise to the Air Force and the DoD. It is important that the Pentagon and Air Force seek input from industry as it undergoes such substantial changes, and it is industry’s responsibility to answer the call.
The U.S. space enterprise is now beginning to see the attention and reform it has so desperately needed for many years. It is crucial that meaningful, effective changes are seen through to the end in order to uphold U.S. superiority in Space, and we are excited to be a part of making that happen.