The Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the Fiscal Year 2021 defense authorization bill included a number of directives related to the military space portfolio. However, it lacks expected provisions on space acquisition reform, per an executive summary of the bill released June 11.
The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) asked the Air Force to submit a report on acquisition alternatives for space, but that report was not formally transmitted in time for the committee to incorporate its findings into its FY ’21 markup, committee staff told reporters Thursday.
A report titled “Alternative Acquisition System for the United States Space Force” was sent to Capitol Hill in late May, but the Air Force dubbed the report a draft the very next day. The report included nine policy proposals intended to streamline acquisition for military space systems (Defense Daily, May 29).
If the final acquisition alternatives report is received in time, its provisions could conceivably be debated on the Senate floor, or in a House-Senate conference, the committee aides noted. The next meeting of the Space Acquisition Council, which helped inform the acquisition report written by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, is scheduled for June 29, the Air Force said Thursday.
The SASC FY ’21 NDAA markup, which was voted out of committee by a vote of 25-2, includes several provisions relevant to the military space industry, per the summary. It greenlights the Space Force’s second phase of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, to help industry develop new rockets for launching national security missions into space, and requires the Secretary of the Air Force to develop technologies and systems to enhance phase three NSSL requirements.
The markup increases funds for space domain awareness, launch development and space surveillance capability, and highlights the space technology industry base as a priority area for future investment.
The bill will include several measures to continue to stand up the nascent U.S. Space Force, which was established last December under the FY ’20 NDAA. SASC members want to establish a Space Force reserve component while holding off on a Space National Guard until further studies are performed. The committee wants the Space Force to continue to work with relevant research institutions to build up a research infrastructure as well as a workforce.
The bill directs the establishment of a space training and readiness command, built out of existing infrastructure, and asks for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and service chiefs to report on which space-related missions might remain in each service and whether they require liaised Space Force personnel. This is likely to help Congress determine whether to authorize the transfer of Army and Navy-related space personnel into the new service – to date, only Air Force officers within certain career fields are authorized to volunteer to transfer into the Space Force.
The SASC markup also directs the Air Force secretary to submit a report on the selection process and criteria used to determine the permanent site for U.S. Space Command’s headquarters. The newest combatant command is currently housed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, but its eventual headquarters is expected to bring a windfall of local industry opportunity and is a prime target for many members of Congress (Defense Daily, May 15).