The Air Force will be working hard in 2020 to promote integration across its space enterprises, in terms of improving alliances and partnerships and connecting more systems and architectures, a top service official said Dec. 13.
“If I had to give you one theme that I would be talking about every time I am up here on the Hill over the next year, it’s going to be about integration,” said Lt. Gen. John “JT” Thompson, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC) commander, at an Air Force Association Space Breakfast event on Capitol Hill.
That includes “syncing up” more closely with partners in government and other nations, as well as technical integration among different mission area platforms, Thompson said. Key areas he noted include better connections between remote sensing and weather technologies, between missile warning and GPS systems, and between large traditional launch and rapid, small launch capabilities. Open mission systems and user command and control interface integration will also be focus areas.
After a busy 2019 that included four national security space launches, the continuation of the office’s SMC 2.0 revamp that brought three new program executive offices on board and progress on multiple Air Force space procurement programs, AFSMC is ready to move forward with changes related to the shift of multiple Air Force space programs – and the SMC office itself – to the new Space Force, Thompson said.
The House on Wednesday passed the conference report for the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which calls for AFSMC and several other Air Force and DoD space agencies to be shifted over to the Space Force. The Senate is expected to pass the legislation early next week and President Trump has pledged to sign the bill.
The acquisition changes that SMC has undergone over the past two years make the center “uniquely qualified to contribute in that U.S. Space Force, and we’re prepared to take on the challenge of being a player in that acquisition entity, whatever it may be,” Thompson said.
The new military branch set up under the Air Force provides the opportunity for acquisition officials to “experiment with new models for requirements, with new models for financial management, with new models for how we manage our workforce,” he added. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein recently shared that he expects to add $9 billion in new space systems and capabilities over the next five years, but that money will need to be used wisely, Thompson noted.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to have more money, … but we need to make sure that that’s not just burning money, that that money is efficiently used and producing warfighting capability for our users,” he said.
The legislation includes the creation of a Space Force Acquisition Council, to be comprised of six senior space leaders within the U.S. military community, including the undersecretary of the Air Force; the future position of assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration – who shall act as chair of the Council – the future position of assistant secretary of defense for space policy; the director of the National Reconnaissance Office; the future chief of space operations; and the commander of the U.S. Space Command.
Thompson said SMC is excited for new models such as the potential Space Force Acquisition Council. “If that’s the decision that’s made, we’re excited to participate with them,” he said. “Anything that can help us operate better as an enterprise, go faster, take advantage of more partnerships and introduce innovation into the space acquisition domain, are things that we’re excited to be part of and really looking forward to.”