JUST IN: Competition Between Space Acquisition Agencies Called a Good Thing

By Meredith Roaten

ULA photo

The Space Force will likely not pursue agency consolidation as a path forward for acquisition reform, a key leader said July 28.

Keeping acquisition agencies separate preserves their unique roles in the space enterprise and promotes competition, said Space Force Vice Chief of Operations Gen. David “DT” Thompson at a Mitchell Institute event.

“I look at what we're doing in acquisition a little differently than, let's say, the term ‘consolidation,’” he said. “... one is bringing focus and unity of effort and activity to that enterprise, but we are not at this point, looking at what's called consolidation.”

The director of the Space Rapid Capabilities Office said in July it was too early to consider consolidation between other acquisition agencies after the Space and Missile Systems Center recently underwent a redesign to address concerns about streamlining processes.

However, a House Appropriations Committee report earlier this month criticized the Air Force and Space Force for what it termed the lack of “aggressive action” toward space acquisition reform.

Thompson said the Space RCO, Space Development Agency and the recently redesigned SMC all have their own roles and responsibilities that are key to the acquisition.

The Space RCO is pursuing innovative space solutions, while the Space and Missile Systems Center has legacy programs in its portfolio. The Space Development Agency brings its own focus on low-cost satellites to the table, he noted.

The director of the Space Development Agency said in March that he is no longer pushing for a delay to the agency's integration into the Space Force. It is scheduled  to fold into the larger enterprise in October 2022.

“There [are] roles for each one of those organizations that demand that they remain in essence what they are,” Thompson said.

He added competition will naturally occur in some areas.

“We see all of those organizations having, in most cases, very unique capabilities and filling requirements, but there will be places where there will be some overlap in which we would like to see a little bit of competition,” he said.

Competition will spur the agencies to develop better, more aggressive practices to get the Space Force the capabilities it needs. But leaders will prioritize eliminating unnecessary duplication or redundant activities, he said.

“What we want to do is bring enough unity across all of those activities so … we have the right focus and the right priority on the right set of capabilities, rather than letting them proceed down individual stovepipe paths which may not cover our highest priorities,” he said.

The Space Force is working toward solving its other acquisition reform problems to allow small businesses and businesses not familiar with the defense industry to participate in the acquisition process, he added. The Space Enterprise Consortium, created by the SMC, is one innovation hub that is intended to help.

“We're not all the way there yet, but we're also looking for other ways to enable that sort of relationship that doesn't require immediately you jump in and you're fully able to operate in the highest security levels,” he said.

Topics: Acquisition, Acquistion Reform, Acquisition Programs

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