Effort to Speed Trump Space Force Said to Lag at White House (2)

  • Unresolved issues remain despite draft to Congress in May
  • Proposed legislation reduces oversight of major space programs

(Updates with OMB response in final paragraph.)

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The U.S. Space Force plan to streamline acquisitions for the new military service and scale back oversight of it is stalled at the White House five months after a draft was sent to Congress, top officials said.

The Space Force put “great efforts” into the set of proposals allowing lower-level officials to make contract decisions and reducing notification requirements to Congress, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said Wednesday.

President Donald Trump pushed for creation of the Space Force as a way to stay ahead of threats from China and Russia. His administration has yet to resolve issues with the new service’s plans, Barrett said.

The Space Force and Barrett submitted the acquisition strategy to congressional committees in May but quickly pulled it back and labeled the document a draft. It has since remained under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)
The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, now part of the U.S. Space Force, has launched several satellite missions in 2020.

“Great efforts were made, it’s not completely done,” Barrett said during a web event held by the Space Foundation, a nonprofit in Colorado Springs that advocates for the global space industry. The Space Force is “building a coalition of support to move forward with an acquisition system unlike any other,” she said.

Congress mandated a retooling of the space acquisition system when it created the Space Force in the fiscal 2020 defense authorization legislation (Public Law 116-92). The system was widely criticized as too slow and cumbersome to keep up with commercial advances and Chinese and Russian programs that could target U.S. satellites that enable GPS systems, banking, and other critical services.

“We’ve done that and we are in the final stages of coordinating that,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, the Space Force chief of space operations, who appeared alongside Barrett at the web event.

The draft report shared with Congress in May proposed three acquisition changes that the Space Force said would require legislation. The service asked to push oversight of Acquisition Category I programs down to the lowest possible level; expand the ability of Space Force to pay for programs incrementally; and reduce requirements to notify Congress of new-start programs.

“We want to have a little more flexibility in how we use resources and we want to be able to delegate authority down to the lowest level,” Raymond said. “We do not want our program managers to be managing the Pentagon, we want our program managers to be managing programs.”

The Air Force submitted a report to Congress containing proposals that ran counter to long-standing procurement policies, which is currently at the Defense Department, a senior administration official said. OMB requested that the Air Force revise the report to ensure all resource needs are met and is awaiting the department’s changes, the official said.

An OMB spokesperson declined to comment on the interagency policy process, but said the administration is committed to providing the Space Force with everything it needs to be successful.

With assistance from Cheryl Bolen

To contact the reporter on this story: Travis J. Tritten at ttritten@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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