Defense Department-based intelligence agencies are taking advantage of commercial remote sensing capabilities, a House Armed Services Committee (HASC) panel says, adding it wants these and other DoD components to make more use of commercial sensing and space services and platforms.

In its proposed mark of the fiscal year 2024 defense authorization bill, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee says it is “encouraged” by the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO) service contract with commercial vendors for space-based electro-optical (EO) Earth sensing and is urging the agency to expand this type of contracting to other satellite remote sensing “phenomenologies like synthetic aperture radar, radio frequency, hyperspectral, to support the national overhead architecture.”

Just as it did with commercial satellite EO sensing providers, NRO currently has study contract with companies in the radar, radio frequency and hyperspectral imaging areas. The Strategic Forces panel, which is scheduled to vote this morning on its section of the bill, wants a briefing from NRO by Jan. 31, 2024 on the agency’s plans to acquire SAR, RF, and hyperspectral imagery to meet the requirements of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which supports warfighters with the imagery data.

The subcommittee is also pleased with NGA’s approach to contracting with the commercial sector on the Economic Indicator Monitoring (EIM) program and the follow-on LUNO program for “monitoring global military and economic activity through unclassified computer vision and analytic services.”

NGA later this year plans to award the LUNO contract. The current EIM contract includes BAE Systems, Ball Aerospace [BALL], BlackSky Technology [BKSY], Continental Mapping Consultants and Royce Geospatial Consultants, whom all compete for delivery orders.

The panel wants the NGA director to brief the committee by March 2024 on the transition of its commercial efforts into programs of record, classified and unclassified missions that can be done or enhanced by commercial capabilities, and the agency’s plans to keep expanding to support growth in its geospatial-intelligence analytic base.

Both NRO and NGA are increasingly taking advantage of explosive growth in the commercial satellite industry and related analytic service providers.

The mark also directs the U.S. Air Force space acquisition chief, working with the chief of Space Operations, to explore commercial capabilities for space situational awareness to meet the needs of the U.S. Space Force. Language in the subcommittee’s bill also directs the Air Force to integrate the Space Force’s “unified data library into Space Force operational systems, including space situational awareness and Space command and control missions.”

In August 2022, the Space Force’s Space Systems Command sought information from industry on software capabilities that would help with the space domain awareness mission.

In the wake of the Space Systems Command’s establishment of an office to better exploit commercial capabilities, the panel also directs the Air Force space acquisition chief to brief HASC by next March on efforts to increase small business participation on contracts.