The House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee wants to see a report on the nascent Space Development Agency (SDA)’s plans to procure commercial services, particularly for the “top priorities” of a new transport layer in low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and a missile defense layer.
The subcommittee’s mark of the FY ’21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released June 21, notes that the SDA “has an important mission but that the establishment of this agency has been rocky.”
“The committee supported the mission and the initial plans for the SDA,” the bill’s language said. “However, the committee is concerned that the SDA is not positioned to execute its mission in an effective manner and is neither equipped to focus on the many priorities it has set, nor has it adequately budgeted across the Future Years Defense Program, with several programs left unfunded.”
The SDA plans to field a next-generation space architecture in LEO, which would include six-space-based layers of capabilities and one ground-based layer with initial fielding by 2024 (Defense Daily, Sept. 20, 2019). HASC strategic forces members want the SDA to focus on “top priorities,” including the planned transport later and the missile warning layer, and to use commercial architectures to “increase space resilience.”
The committee requests SDA Director Derek Tournear more regularly brief lawmakers on its plans and progress, and that he work with Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond to submit a detailed plan to procure commercial services, particularly for broadband communications satellites.
“The committee is aware that the core mission of the SDA initially included plans to procure commercial space services, … and is concerned that these plans were dropped, with its focus shifting instead to solely a payload and software development and procurement model,” the bill’s language said. The report is due to congressional defense committees by Dec. 1.
The subcommittee, led by Chairman Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Mike Turner (R-Ohio), also wants the Space Force to procure commercial space domain awareness services, and fences FY ’21 funding until those commercial services are procured.
Lawmakers will require the secretary of the Air Force to procure at least two commercial space domain awareness contracts for technologies in low-Earth orbit within 90 days of the new NDAA being signed into law. Specifically, lawmakers are looking for commercial capabilities to provide conjunction and maneuver alerts, monitor breakup and launch events, and detect and track objects smaller than 10 centimeters in size, according to the mark’s bill language.
The bill would fence FY ’21 funding for enterprise space battle command and control to 75 percent until those contracts are made.
In 2019, what was then Air Force Space Command announced that it was changing the common term “space situational awareness” to “space domain awareness” as the U.S. military now treats space as a warfighting domain, Space News reported at the time.
The HASC strategic forces mark also requires the chief of space operations to submit an unclassified report on commercial space domain awareness services procured by the Air Force over the past two years. The report is due by Jan. 31, 2021.
For space weather programs, the mark directs the Secretary of the Air Force to provide a briefing to the full committee on the progress of weather acquisition, particularly for electro-optical and infrared weather services. The briefing is expected by Oct. 30.