The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the fiscal 2022 defense funding bill advises the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to hone its acquisition strategy to reduce duplication of effort.
“The committee remains concerned that the Air Force has not taken more aggressive action in addressing longstanding space acquisition issues and has made little progress in defining what the Space Force will be doing that is fundamentally different than when it was a component of the Air Force,” per the committee report on the fiscal 2022 defense funding measure. “The fiscal year 2022 budget request is the first budget developed by the Space Force since its establishment, yet it includes many of the same type of ‘big juicy targets’ that the current Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has warned against for at least four years. The Space Force lacks a clear plan which defines its future space architecture and lacks a strategy for how this architecture will be acquired.”
The report contends that plans for USSF’s new acquisition unit, Space Systems Command “consist primarily of renaming” USSF Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. and “incorporating existing space launch units.”
“The plan does not resolve the fundamental issues of overlap and duplication in roles, responsibilities, and authorities among the various other space acquisition units in the Department of the Air Force,” the report said. “The committee believes the Space Force needs a clear and concrete vision for its future system architectures, based not on philosophy but on rigorous technical analysis with executable plans resourced by realistic budgets. Further, the committee believes the current life-cycle based organizational construct of the Space and Missile Systems Center should be re-examined and encourages the Secretary of the Air Force to consider organizing units around mission-based program areas which correspond to their operational counterparts in Space Operations Command.”
While USSF is to have its own service acquisition executive to bring focus to space acquisition, existing law has hamstrung the service. 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 space acquisition and integration would not become the Department of the Air Force SAE for space systems and programs–the Space Force SAE–until Oct. 1, 2022 (Defense Daily, May 7).
Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth has suggested that Congress provide that the Space Force SAE may begin duties earlier than Oct. 1 next year, while President Joe Biden’s nominee for Air Force secretary, Frank Kendall, has said that he is not convinced of the need for a Space Force SAE.
The House Appropriations Committee’s mark of the fiscal 2022 defense funding bill supports the Space Force SAE but does not include a provision to accelerate the timeline of a Space Force SAE’s office.
“The committee remains concerned that the Department of the Air Force still does not have a service acquisition executive solely focused on space programs,” the committee report said. “The committee believes the Space Force was established to bring greater attention and focus to fixing its acquisition issues because previous attempts to do so did not produce lasting results. Nevertheless, the committee remains hopeful that with strong new leadership and a greater sense of urgency the Space Force can put its acquisition issues behind it and deliver the capabilities the nation needs.”
Overall, the House Appropriations Committee mark mostly accedes to the USSF budget request. For example, the committee funds the nearly $2.5 billion research and development (R&D) request for the Lockheed Martin [LMT] Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared missile warning system and the $1.3 billion procurement request for five National Security Space Launch vehicles.
The committee’s mark, however, does cut the USSF nearly $4.5 billion request for classified program R&D by $410.5 million.