A recent report on the Pentagon’s plans for alternative space acquisition processes was sent to the Hill and then swiftly pulled back as a non-finalized version last week. However, the final version is expected to make its way back to Congress in the near future, per two sources close to the matter.

Bloomberg Government first reported May 21 that the Defense Department had sent a long-awaited report on space acquisition alternatives to lawmakers that included nine proposals to ease the procurement of space systems and cut bureaucratic red tape. The next day, it was revealed that the document was not the final version, and a new report would be sent to Congress at a later date, over two months since the March 31 deadline set in the fiscal year 2020 defense authorization act.

It’s unclear why the report’s status was changed so abruptly, but it remains unlikely that there will be many deviations in the final version from the report that has already been revealed, the sources said.

The report, titled “Alternative Acquisition System for the United States Space Force,” includes three proposed changes that would require legislative approval, and six that would not require a change of law but would need a shift in the internal Defense Department structure. Kaitlyn Johnson, an associate fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and associate director of the center’s Aerospace Security Project, said the report resembled a “dream wish list” for the nascent Space Force, with many viable proposals and also some that would be tough to sell on Capitol Hill.

“They’re asking for a lot, and I’m not sure they’ll get all of it,” Johnson told Defense Daily on Friday. “But I think a lot of the pieces in here were what Congress and DoD were hoping for with the creation of the Space Force, and the authority to reconfigure the acquisition system to be a little better fit for space systems.”

Among the nine proposals, the report highlights “budget line item restructure” as the most important recommendation, asking to consolidate budget line items based on mission portfolios, such as missile warning and defense, defensive space control, and launch and mission support. This would allow the Space Force to quickly reallocate funds in response to emerging threats and new requirements without “time-consuming reprogramming actions,” the report said.

This item would make a significant difference in speeding along space programs, but it may also be the toughest sell to Congress. While it doesn’t require legislative action, it is asking lawmakers to give up some of their oversight, Johnson noted. “I’m not sure they’ll feel comfortable with [that], especially because acquisition was something that is very important to Congress.”

The report’s self-proclaimed second- and third-most important proposals have a better chance of being approved, Johnson said. One relates to codifying a more “evolutionary block-upgrade approach to production satellites,” that would combine the cost savings of a block buy while avoiding the historical challenges of program spikes in procurement accounts through incremental funding. The report notes that there is historical precedent for such a change – which would require legislative action – as seen in the FY ’12 and FY ’13 National Defense Authorization Acts for the Air Force’s Advanced EHF vehicles 5 and 6, and the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) vehicles 5 and 6 programs.

This proposal gets to what lawmakers had been hinting they wanted from the new Space Force, which is to procure space systems differently than the Air Force’s aviation and other systems, Johnson said.

The Space Force also wants to codify into law a change to allow the space acquisition executive to lower decision-making levels for acquisition programs, including Acquisition CAT 1 programs or classified programs equivalent in size. Such a change would also effectively help speed up acquisition processes, she said.

Among the other six proposals, the Space Force wants to:

-Change the definition of a “new start” that would allow the service to continue work on critical programs in the event of a continuing resolution delaying funding on Capitol Hill;

-Minimize the traditional reporting requirements such as milestone reviews that aren’t as applicable to space programs as to other types of equipment;

-Eliminate the Defense Department’s requirement that each program change must be approved by a senior level defense official panel, and limit such oversight to major program changes;

-Create a separate Space Force topline budget, which was already implemented in the FY ’21 Air Force budget request, but in the future could be a completely distinct entity so that Air Force officials can’t shift funds away from space system;

-Change the definition of “end items” to allow for greater use of commercial systems; and

-Create a separate head of contracting from that of the Air Force, who would have the authority to “deviate from the [Defense Federal Regulations] DFARS as necessary.”

One item that was not resolved in this report was whether the Space Force would have a separate service acquisition executive, or whether it would continue to be the Air Force SAE’s responsibility to oversee the programs. Lawmakers specifically outlined the need for a separate SAE to be created by 2022 within the FY ’20 NDAA, but Air Force officials have stated their preference to retain one sole authority.

The report states that the Department of the Air Force would like to study “possible future organizational design changes – including the pros and cons of one versus two department SAEs” and would submit a report of those studies for congressional review and approval next year.

The proposals in the report, if accepted by Congress, would certainly help streamline the acquisition of space systems, and could also have implications for broader acquisition changes across the services.

“If it all went through, it does set a precedent for other services and other acquisition agencies to use the Space Force as a reason for their own agency to get certain authorities,” Johnson said. “So it’s definitely something that I think the Defense Department and Congress will have to take really seriously, not just for, ‘What does this mean for Space Force?’ But ‘What could this mean for DoD acquisition overall?’”

The report was authored by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett with support from Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, who serves concurrently as the commander of U.S. Space Command.