Acquisitions of the United States Space Force to have a fresh look, legislators seek hearings

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who is a leading advocate of setting up the United States Space Force, said he expects the Biden administration to place pressure on the operation to tidy up the space’s procurement act force. Cooper chairs the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, which wrote language in 2017 to set up a Space Corps that eventually became the Space Force. The “main motivation” was a disorganized procurement method for military satellites that really persuaded many Congress members which space should be organized by a different service branch underneath the Air Force Department, Cooper stated on a live Politico webcast on January 27.

He said policymakers are worried that the Space Force’s activities do not catch up with fast developments in commercial space technologies and that the agency does not modernize rapidly enough. Over a year since the Space Force formation, the Congress has still yet to inquire from the Space Force about a proposed approach to acquiring future programs, stated Cooper. He further said the arrival of a new president is a chance for a “new beginning and a modern look.” Cooper blamed ex-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett for failing to file a study on Congress’s space procurement legislation. “To determine if we’ll get them to abide by the law, I intend to hold inquiries on this,” he added.

A successor of Barrett has not been nominated by the Biden administration yet. According to several reports, Barrett’s plan last year was overturned by Trump admin budget authorities, which stopped her from presenting it to Congress. On Wednesday, Shawn Barnes, who conducts the assistant secretary’s duties for the space procurement and integration, told journalists that he has not yet addressed these topics with Biden transition authorities. Barnes stated the National Defense Authorization Act of the year 2021 needs the Air Force Secretary to send a new paper on space acquisitions in May. “I do not see a major obstacle to being able to complete that report within the required timeframe,” stated Barnes.

In testimony presented for his January 19 confirmation proceeding to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, said the DoD should collaborate with the civil space agencies to “maximize private sector-driven innovation and investments.” Austin said that a “structured and responsive procurement process” is necessary to take advantage of new technologies. He shared enthusiasm for the Space Development Agency as well as the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, DoD’s new space procurement organizations. And when the DoD looks into future reorganizations, Austin added, these departments should be given a chance to thrive.