No More Executive Agent for Space

Pentagon acquisition czar John Young last week told lawmakers that he intends to retain oversight authority for military space programs in his office as opposed to relinquishing it to the Air Force. “I fundamentally disagree that a single service should have the total acquisition decision authority and milestone authority for a set of programs, as was done in space, and I would intend to retain acquisition authority over space programs,” he told a House oversight panel during a hearing July 10. “It provides a check and balance in the system.” The 2001 Rumsfeld space commission recommended that the Air Force assume the role of executive agent for military space as one of many changes across the Defense Department to place a greater emphasis on space. The move was subsequently adopted by the Rumsfeld Pentagon and the Air Force executed this role until March 2005 when the Office of the Secretary of Defense assumed control over all of the Air Force’s big-ticket weapons programs, including the space portfolio, during a USAF leadership vacuum. At that time several of the space projects, such as the space based infrared system early warning satellite program, were beset by cost overruns, performance issues, and schedule delays. While the non-space programs were returned to USAF oversight in January 2006 and the Air Force has made great strides in improving the state of health of its space acquisition activities, the space portfolio was never relinquished to the service. Young also noted that he would take over the reins of any major weapons program from across the services that is not meeting the acquisition standards set by his office. OSD is already adopting this model with the KC-X tanker program, with Young assuming the role as the source selection authority in the reopened tanker contest.