Space Force Asks Congress to Ease Rules on Buying New Hardware

The Space Force has asked Congress for legislation making it easier for the new service branch to buy and field space hardware quickly and keep up with growing threats from adversaries such as China and Russia.

The proposals, if enacted, would allow lower-level officials to make contract decisions, more incremental funding of projects, and less stringent reporting to Congress. The Pentagon submitted plans to Capitol Hill this week as part of a space acquisition overhaul report led by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, who oversees the service.

Congress mandated a retooling of the acquisition system when it created the Space Force in December as part of the defense authorization bill (Public Law 116-92). The move reflected growing concerns that the U.S. was falling behind in a new race for dominance in space and that traditional systems for fielding equipment are too expensive and cumbersome.

The acquisition changes are aimed at “increased flexibility, being able to move at speed, coming up with opportunities for further delegation and streamlining,” Gen. Jay Raymond, the Space Force commander, told reporters during a roundtable Wednesday.

Photo by Shawn Thew/Bloomberg
Gen. Jay Raymond testifies on Capitol Hill May 6, 2020.

The report requests three specific legislative changes, according to a copy obtained by Bloomberg Government.

  • Wider authority to delegate programs, including Acquisition Category I or classified programs equivalent in size, to the lowest possible level to accelerate decision making. Current requirements have put oversight at the highest echelons of the department and created burdensome paperwork, the report says.
  • Expanded ability to pay for space systems and space services incrementally. Fully funding each satellite in a space system has caused “affordability challenges,” and buying costly items over multiple years would be more efficient and save money.
  • Reduced requirements for notifying Congress of new-start programs. Defense committees in Congress could be notified by letter and given a 30-day review period, with no reply signifying consent. More detailed procedures are now required for new Research, Development, Test and Evaluation programs worth $10 million or more and new procurement of $20 million or more.

The report also recommends six other changes that the Defense Deoartment can carry out on its own.

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; Jodie Morris at jmorris@bgov.com

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