The U.S. Space Force (USSF) needs a service acquisition executive (SAE) now, the USSF Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond said on May 12.

The fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), P.L. 116-92, established the U.S. Space Force on Dec. 20, 2019, but Section 957 of the law said that the new assistant secretary of the Air Force for apace acquisition and integration would not become the Department of the Air Force service acquisition executive (SAE) for space systems and programs–the Space Force SAE–until Oct. 1, 2022.

“We absolutely need an independent service acquisition executive for space,” Raymond told the McAleese Associates’ FY2022 Defense Programs Conference on May 12. “The law says that that separate SAE will come into effect on 1 October of ’22. We’re ready to do that now. We need to accelerate that timeline, and it should be no later than 1 October of ’22. We’ve got to get that up.”

Acting Air Force Secretary John Roth suggested to the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel (HAC-D) last week that Congress should amend the language in the fiscal 2020 NDAA to allow a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration to become the Space Force SAE before Oct. 1 next year (Defense Daily, May 7).

Raymond said on May 12 that a separate Space Force SAE will improve space acquisition, as the new SAE will be focused on that, not on other Air Force programs.

“I relate it to buying or selling a house,” Raymond said. “If you decide that you want to save some dollars and use the realtor of either the seller or the buyer, you’re getting somebody that’s working for them and also working for you. I want somebody that comes to work every day focusing on what we need to do in space to be able to move at speed, and I would encourage that to happen sooner, rather than later.”

In the last year of his administration, former President Donald Trump did not nominate an assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration.

Roth told HAC-D on May 7th that the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration is a “key position,” but, despite the lack of a White House nomination,”we haven’t sat on our hands.”

“We have taken a look at that office and organized it in a way that whoever comes in…can hit the ground running,” he said.

On May 12, Raymond also discussed the Space Force’s efforts to field the ATLAS space domain awareness (SDA) system by the spring of next year. L3Harris Technologies [LHX], Omitron and Parsons Corp. [PSN] are developing ATLAS, which is to lead to a dramatic increase in the processing and integration of SDA data from commercial, civil, and military satellites.

ATLAS is to replace the Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC), a space situational awareness computer system established in 1979 at the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado (Defense Daily, May 4). The Air Force last upgraded SPADOC in 1989.

Begun in 2009, the Joint Space Operations Center Mission System (JMS) was an earlier Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) effort to replace SPADOC, but the Air Force cancelled JMS in 2019 after it faced technical and cost challenges. JMS was to process and integrate inputs from a variety of sensors, including Lockheed Martin‘s [LMT] ground-based Space Fence radar. Omitron was a subcontractor on JMS’ Increment 2–the effort to make JMS operational.

“I’m extremely confident that this [ATLAS] is going to produce, and, in fact, it’s already produced,” Raymond said on May 12. “The JMS program was broken into three increments. The first one was putting a visualization tool on SPADOC. The second one was getting off of SPADOC, and the third one was actually building the battle management command and control capabilities that you needed to do to handle that space had become a warfighting domain.”

“We had not done any work on battle management command and control [BMC2],” he said, adding that, while the Air Force finished JMS Increment 1, it was unable to operationalize JMS in Increment 2–a failure that sabotaged BMC2 efforts.

After the Air Force cancelled JMS, “we shifted to a rapid development capability and stood up this software factory to be able to do that,” Raymond said. “It’s already delivering results. We are delivering battle management command and control capabilities, as we speak. We’ve built software capability development teams that are embedded at the CSpOC [Combined Space Operations Center] with the 18th Space Control Squadron [at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.].”

ATLAS is to harness machine-to-machine interfaces to accelerate the provision of space domain awareness data to USSF personnel.

“The work to get off of SPADOC is on track, and I’m very confident that we’ve done that,” Raymond said May 12. “In fact, I’m so confident that the work that we’ve done has really become the centerpiece of the JADC2 [Joint All Domain Command and Control] effort. If you look at ABMS [Advanced Battle Management System], the Space Force data architecture that was built to do the space domain awareness work and the space C2 is the data infrastructure for ABMS. We’ve delivered a C2 system for critical space capabilities that was built for us by the [Space] RCO [Rapid Capabilities Office at Kirtland AFB, N.M.]. It is already delivering, and that decision we made to go from how we used to do acquisition under JMS to our new way is already paying significant dividends.”

JADC2 is the department-wide effort to build a cross-service digital architecture for multi-domain operations, while ABMS is the Air Force and Space Force component of JADC2.