Orbital Impact

What does not having the final say for major decisions on space acquisition really mean for the Air Force? Essentially “a little bit bigger bureaucracy,” added time, and extra effort, Gary Payton, deputy under secretary for Space Programs, said last month. “Good management theory says you push the decision-making as low as possible in the bureaucracy” and “as close to the preponderance of data that is necessary to make the decision,” Payton said Sept. 25 at a press roundtable sponsored by the Space Foundation in Washington, D.C. He continued, “That is just good command philosophy.” But that’s not the current set-up. Instead the Office of the Secretary of Defense has the ultimate say on major programmatic decisions for the Air Force’s and the other services’ big-ticket satellite and launch vehicle projects. The Air Force lost this so-called milestone decision authority for military space programs in March 2005 to OSD’s acquisition shop. While Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has said he’d like to see the service regain the oversight as soon as possible, Pentagon acquisition boss John Young thinks it should continue to reside in his office. Payton said Young is “clearly within his realm of authority” to exercise the oversight and he credited Young for having made “valuable observations” on the space projects that the Air Force has taken up to his level recently. “But it has cost schedule and extra effort on our part,” Payton said of the impact.