Disrupting Acquisition Blog

Accelerating Space Acquisition

by | May 22, 2020 | Accelerate, Policy, Rapid Acquisition

SECAF and CSOThe Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett, in partnership with the US Space Force, submitted a report to Congress on an Alternative Acquisition System for the Space Force. This is a great report that outlines nine strategic reforms, three of which require legislative reforms, while the remaining six can be done within Pentagon authorities.

Given the critical importance of space and the dynamic nature of operations, threats, and technologies, the US Space Force MUST have an acquisition system that rapidly exploits leading technologies for mission success. The Space Force offers the DoD a clean sheet approach to shape an acquisition, requirements, and budget system for the 21st Century, free of the legacy bureaucracy that has evolved over the last sixty years. 

Congress and DoD leadership would be wise to implement all these recommendations immediately and explore scaling many of these reforms beyond the space domain. 

Five Goals in Transforming Space Acquisition

  1. Streamlining requirements validation
  2. Accelerating decision speed
  3. Maximizing budget execution stability, flexibility, and efficiency
  4. Increasing program/capability efficiency
  5. Accelerating contracting speed


Nine Features/Recommendations

  1. Unique ACAT Thresholds, MDAP Definition, and MDA Delegation for Space Systems
  • Delegate programs, including ACAT I or classified equivalent size to lowest feasible level to accelerate decision making is the second most important recommendation in this report.
  • Lowering the level milestone decision authority is a decisive factor in accelerating capability development
  1. “Efficient Space Procurement (ESP)” Codification for the DAF/USSF
  • The USSF should have the ability to incrementally fund procurement of space systems and space services
  • Codifying the use of ESP for USSF satellite procurement would provide the primary benefit of eliminating production breaks driven by FYDP constraints and the ability to achieve significant cost avoidance and other program efficiencies.
  • Reducing space portfolio constraints via incremental funding is the third most important recommendation in this report.
  1. USSF-Unique “New Start” Notification Procedures
  • The DAF/USSF should provide a direct submission of letter notifications to Congress for all new starts that do not require an above threshold reprogramming action, with concurrent coordination of this letter through OSD and OMB.
  • Letter notification would initiate a 30-day review timeframe with corresponding congressional defense committees for approval or disapproval, with “no reply” signifying consent.
  1. Budget Line Item (BLI) Restructure
  • The DAF should consolidate BLIs based on mission portfolios (e.g. Missile Warning and Defense, Communications and Navigation, Offensive Space Control, Defensive Space Control, Launch and Mission Support).
  • This approach ensures maximum budget execution flexibility to manage requirements across capability areas and space system architectures.
  • Consolidating BLIs to manage USSF space programs at portfolio levels is the most important recommendation in this report.
  1. Modified JCIDS Approach for Space Systems
  • The DAF/USSF should execute JCIDS and associated Service-level requirements development approaches that focus Joint Capabilities Board (JCB) and JROC requirement validation for Space Force capabilities on broad joint military requirements or high-level Joint Performance Requirements (JPRs).
  • These joint military requirements or JPRs should reflect only the highest level capability attributes, not detailed system parameters.
  • The CSO will  be the owner of all USSF requirements, and the USSF should correspondingly implement lean, Service-specific requirement processes that will dramatically reduce administrative burden and further streamline the requirements process.
  1. New Policy Regarding Key Decision Point and Reporting Requirements for Development, Fielding, and Sustainment of Space Systems
  • The SAE, in partnership with OSD, should establish space system acquisition policy in the form of a space system-specific pathway within the DoD Adaptive Acquisition Framework (DoDI 5000.02) that sets clear guidance for USSF space system program management.
  • In conjunction with the creation of a space system-specific
  • pathway in the Adaptive Acquisition Framework, the DAF should also work with OSD to seek legislation, where appropriate, that codifies appropriate decision events and tailored reporting requirements for space programs.
  1. “Useable End Item” Determination Authority
  • For the purpose of budget planning, the DAF should make “end item” determinations on a case-by-case basis. Application of full-funding policy to “useable end items” within DAF/USSF acquisitions would include space system payloads, subassemblies, ground equipment, and components (up to complete space vehicles) to allow for innovative contractual and funding approaches to acquire lower level elements of a modular, open systems architecture.
  1. Separate USSF Topline Budget
  • The DAF has established a separate USSF topline developed independently of the USAF Service’s corporate process, with an appropriate and independent supporting panel structure, responsible for a separate POM submission to OSD. While USSF and USAF received separate fiscal guidance, the SECAF retains the authority to determine if resources need to move from one Service to the other.
  • An independent budgeting process and separate USSF topline provide for budget stability in planning and increased flexibility across sustainment and modernization, both during the formal POM cycles and off-cycle when rapidly evolving changes are required.
  1. USSF-Unique Head of Contracting Activity (HCA)
  • SAF/AQCS has been designated HCA for the AF RCO, and the Director of the Office of Contracts has been designated HCA within the NRO. HCA delegation within an Agency has the benefit of greatly streamlining and speeding contract decisions.
  • The USSF should establish an HCA within its Service-level acquisition command, independent from the USAF HCA, and adhere to both the FAR and DFARS, but not the AFFARS.

Additional DAF/USSF Space Acquisition System Elements

  • Improve Synchronization across Space Vehicle, Ground System, and User Terminal Elements of Space Capabilities
  • Enhance DAF/USSF Human Capital Development
  • Engage Commercial Industry to Achieve More Rapid Fielding of Space Systems
  • Ensure Greater Alignment between NRO and Department of the Air Force Space Architectures, Systems, and Programs
  • Review Current Capabilities and Plan Toward a National Space Test and Training Range
  • Improve DAF/USSF Software Development and Use

Read the full report here


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Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed here are those of the authors only and do not represent the positions of the MITRE Corporation or its sponsors.


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