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New US Space Force Strategy Outlines Criteria For Commercial Adoption

By Calvin Biesecker | April 10, 2024

      General B. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations of the United States Space Force speaking at Space Symposium 2024. Photo: Space Foundation

      COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—The U.S. Space Force on Wednesday released its first strategy for acquiring commercial space capabilities, which include four criteria to guide its decision-making in this area and, as expected, the document does not outline funding plans.

      The decision-making criteria outlined in The U.S. Space Force Commercial Space Strategy: Accelerating the Purposeful Pursuit of Hybrid Space Architectures include whether a product or service provides operational utility or meet a requirement; is the product or service feasible in terms of cost and value; do they contribute to resilience; and can they be fielded quickly enough to bolster operations or counter a threat.

      Anyone reading the strategy will be “disappointed” if they are looking for specific funding for commercial product and services or for how barriers to acquiring commercial capabilities will be eliminated, Gen. Chance Saltzman, Space Force chief of space operations, said at Space Symposium.

      “But if you understand that effective integration will only come about with a common understanding of our priorities, the missions where we need help, our proposal evaluation criteria, and clear definitions of terms to enhance that collaboration, I think you’ll find this document useful,” the Space Force’s top officer told attendees. “Useful as a tool to drive process change, to shift our mindset, and useful to see the Space Force’s relationship with industry in a new light.”

      The 19-page document is signed by Saltzman and Frank Calvelli, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration. Saltzman said the dual-signature demonstrates a “partnership” between the acquisition and operational communities.

      “Together, we’re going to ensure we’re optimizing resiliency and capability by balancing the decisions necessary to shift our approach,” he said.

      The Space Force’s commercial strategy comes just over a week after the Defense Department’s space policy office released its Commercial Space Integration Strategy to reinforce enterprise-wide efforts to leverage commercial solutions. DoD Space Policy Chief John Plumb said there needs to be accountability in place to implement the strategy for it to “have any legs.”

      Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has provided “implementation guidance” to the overall department to hold everyone accountable to the commercial integration strategy, Plumb told reporters here on Wednesday. Plumb, who will be departing DoD shortly, said that from standpoint of his office, “the main task to us is on an annual basis to roll up for the department how we are doing in implementing the strategy and report back to the secretary.”

      For example, he said, “part of the department’s been tasked to go look at whether we do need government-backed type of war risk insurance similar” to what commercial airlines are offered to help augment military airlift needs during a crisis or conflict. Austin has tasked other DoD components for implementing the strategy, Plumb said.

      The Space Force’s strategy contains four lines of effort, including “secure the future.” Saltzman said for this line, the Space Force will “prioritize our science and technology efforts that are tailored to the operational environment and optimized for fielding capabilities on operationally relevant timelines.”

      This story was first published by Defense Daily