The fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) called for the U.S. Air Force to deliver to Congress by March 31 last year a report on an Alternative Acquisition System for the United States Space Force to hasten the development and delivery of space systems.

While U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond said last October that the report was in the final stages of coordination, the Air Force now plans to incorporate lessons learned from the effort in the application of DoD’s 2020 Adaptive Acquisition Framework to space systems–an application called for in the fiscal 2021 NDAA.

“At this point, we’re focused on working on the Adaptive Acquisition Framework and ensuring that the kinds of priorities we had before feed into that,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration Shawn Barnes told reporters on Jan. 27.

Until late last year, the Alternative Acquisition System for the United States Space Force report was in “interagency” coordination limbo, including with officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the former Trump administration.

Last May, the Air Force took back a draft of the report to Congress within a day of its submittal (Defense Daily, June 16, 2020). That draft report said that consolidating Budget Line Items (BLIs) to manage Space Force “space programs at portfolio levels is the most important recommendation in this report”–a recommendation that could meet with stiff opposition from members of Congress who want strong oversight of individual military space programs.

“I don’t think there’s really a lot of value added at this point in talking about the challenges that we had faced to get that document through, and so I won’t do that,” Barnes said on Jan. 27 of the Alternative Acquisition System for the United States Space Force report. “Rather, I would really rather focus on what is it that we’re trying to get done in terms of the acquisition reform. We certainly do believe that being able to have some greater flexibility in terms of funding is going to be important, and to the extent that some of that budget line item consolidation will be important to that, we’ll continue to look at that as an important step.”

Barnes said that he is sensitive to concerns in the executive branch and on Capitol Hill that consolidating budget line items could decrease program oversight and transparency, “and as we would look at adding that additional flexibility, or budget line item consolidation, we would want to ensure that we did not diminish the tranparency that exists and, frankly, find ways to increase that transparency.”

Section 807 of the fiscal 2021 NDAA calls on DoD to deliver to the congressional defense committees by May 15 next year a report on the application of the Adaptive Acquisition Framework to space systems.

In January last year, former DoD acquisition chief Ellen Lord issued DoD Instruction 5000.02 to implement the Adaptive Acquisition Framework to speed the fielding of military systems. Language in the fiscal 2021 NDAA says that the framework is “a very important step toward ensuring additional avenues for new entrants to the defense industrial base.”

Revamping acquisition to ensure the rapid fielding of space systems is “maybe the harshest fight there is and one of the most important fights there is,” former Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said last October. “You can’t build technology on a slow, lethargic acquisition system. We’ve got to move fast.”

She pointed to the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s positing of China and Russia as the most significant threats to the U.S. as reasons for accelerating the acquisition of space and other systems.