Making Space Faster

Colorado Springs, Colo.—Air Force Space Command is seeking to establish partnerships with “organizations that may have the ability to go faster” in acquiring new capabilities, AFSPC boss Gen. Jay Raymond said at a briefing Thursday at the 33rd Space Symposium here. In developing a warfighting approach to space, “I really see a need to go fast,” Raymond said, so he’s leveraging a number of existing strategies to achieve that. The Space and Missile Systems Center already has rapid acquisition authority through its Operationally Responsive Space office, Raymond said, and he has directed Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, SMC commander, to “use those authorities more broadly than we have in the past.” Also, Raymond said he is looking for more ways to “partner with [the Rapid Capabilities Office] where it makes sense to do so,” especially in the area of “battle management and command and control capabilities.” Raymond pointed to AFSPC’s ongoing partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office as an example of what a faster process can accomplish. He noticed the NRO was already doing a space situational awareness program better than AFSPC, so instead of building his own new program from the ground up, Raymond decided “we’ll just buy more of those capabilities” from NRO.

In a separate briefing, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, boss of Air Force Materiel Command, said today’s space challenges are exactly the sort of problem rapid acquisition authorities were designed to solve. “The sweet spot,” for those authorities, she said, comes “when you’re trying to build that pathfinder, that first-of-a-kind that’s trying to leverage innovative and creative approaches.” She clarified that she was speaking not only of “new technologies,” but also “new concepts of operation” for the space domain. Pawlikowski added that using “other transaction authority” to “rapidly do contracts” would also be crucial for making space acquisition faster. A large part of the speed advantage is achieved through shortening the chain of command. “Under the RCO authorities,” she said, “the decision process actually can stop at essentially the commander of SMC instead of going all the way up.”

Update: This entry was updated on April 12 to clear up multiple unclear statements related to Air Force space acquisitions.