Space Force official: To beat China, US must spend smarter

Space Force official: To beat China, US must spend smarter

Space Force official: To beat China, US must spend smarter

Col. Eric Felt: “What’s so exciting for Space Force about all this business innovation is that we can use it to deter conflict”

WASHINGTON — Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall last year released a list of priority technologies, including space systems, where the Pentagon intends to pump in more funding in order to stay ahead of China. These planned investments provide an unprecedented opportunity to “pursue and leverage commercial innovation in the space industry,” Col. Eric Felt, director of space architecture and integration, said Jan. 11.

“In my 25 years of service, I have never seen the department move so much money so quickly towards the priorities set out by the secretary. It’s exciting,” Felt said during the “State of the Space Industrial Base” webinar hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association.

Felt said his boss, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Integration Frank Calvelli, is driving the message through the Space Force that staying technologically ahead isn’t just about spending more but to spend smarter. Part of this strategy avoids costly government development programs and exploits commercially available technologies.

“What’s so exciting for Space Force and the space acquisition community about all of this business innovation is that we can use it to maintain our technological edge and prevent conflict with our competitors,” Felt said. When it comes to space systems, “we’re seeing solutions that are going to help us solve this problem and really deliver the kinds of capabilities that our fighters need.”

Felt noted that how the Pentagon spends its space dollars can have a significant impact on the health of the industry. “The things we do in space acquisition can be super helpful to our industrial base or super harmful to our industrial base,” he said, because a healthy space sector is important for national security and for the economy.

Calvelli stressed the need to accelerate acquisitions, and that goes hand-in-hand with the idea of ​​using more commercial technologies and building smaller satellites, Felt said.

“His formula for going faster in acquisition starts with smaller systems, and that includes buying more commercial systems… That’s a big part of what we do,” he said. added.

These rules werehelp by Calvelli in an Oct. 31 memo that procurement offices are “now figuring out how to implement,” Felt said.

Following this new direction, he said, “I think it will be very healthy for the Space Force and healthy for the industry as well.”

“We must invest correctly”

Steve “Bucky” Butow, director of the space portfolio at the Defense Innovation Unit, said the DoD must spend wisely on commercial products and services, which means awarding “meaningful contracts” that benefit government and the private sector.

“What we really want is a strong commercial space industrial base that not only supports the military, but also our economic security and our exploration efforts with NASA,” Butow said during the NDIA webinar.

“Prototyping, experimentation and validation of space capabilities is an area that has traditionally been underfunded,” he said. “It’s getting better. But if we’re going to have strong capabilities, we really need to make sure that we’re investing properly in research and development, to include prototyping activities that we’re doing with commercial companies that are doing really interesting things. to give the United States a competitive advantage in space.”

“The next thing is meaningful contracts,” he said.

“This extends not only to the purchase of widgets, but also services. Contracts for services are not normally entered into at the Ministry of Defense. as commercial services, and we really need the US Space Force to be the executive agent for the entire department to deliver a wide variety of services.

Need for indicators of success

A concern for the DoD in the grand competition with China is how to measure success, warned Richard “Doc” Klodnicki, president and CEO of consulting firm Aereti Inc.

When experts try to handicap the space race, too much emphasis is placed on the number of space launchesor the number of exploration vehicles and satellites each country sends into orbit, Klodnicki noted.

“I would caution against focusing on what China is doing versus what we want to do,” he said. “I’m not sure the number of launches is always the right metric.”

If satellites are launched to replace existing assets, “that’s not innovation, that’s operation, maintenance and sustainment,” he said. “I think we need to start looking at what measures of interest are we using, and then how are we going to move them forward.”

The United States must understand what success means “regardless of what China is doing, but rather in terms of what the United States and its allied partners want to achieve, and that will force China to follow as well” .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *