DOD issued its first Commercial Space Integration Strategy today, emphasizing the growing role it sees for commercial space companies in supporting national security space activities. DOD worked closely with the commercial sector in developing the strategy and ensured it is unclassified in order to be transparent about what it is trying to achieve and to hold itself accountable in coming years. The U.S. Space Force is expected to release its own commercial strategy soon.

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy John Plumb released the strategy at the Pentagon today. A former Navy submarine officer with a doctorate in aerospace engineering, he is the first person to hold that position, which was created by Congress in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act, the same law that established the U.S. Space Force. Appointed to the role in March 2022, he recently announced plans to leave early next month.

LIVE: @DepPentPressSec Sabrina Singh and John F. Plumb, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space policy brief the news media on the 2024 Defense Department commercial space integration strategy at the Pentagon. https://t.co/Zw8wQ6aeLH

— Department of Defense ???????? (@DeptofDefense) April 2, 2024

He was careful to distinguish between “commercial” space companies and the defense industrial base companies DOD traditionally contracts with.

“When I talk about the commercial sector it’s important to note that this is distinct from the Defense Industrial Base, or the DIB as we call it. The DIB is predominantly focused on U.S. government contracts to build specific government systems. But the commercial sector develops products that serve a viable commercial market outside of government and their incentives are to innovate for their entire customer base, not just the Department of Defense.

“The 2022 National Defense Strategy directed us to increase collaboration with the commercial sector and leverage technological advancement and entrepreneurial spirit. Our commercial space integration strategy follows through on that.” — John Plumb

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III stressed in the forward to the report that “[i]ntegrating commercial solutions, as opposed to merely augmenting existing government systems” will require a lot of changes within DOD “to eliminate the structural, procedural, and cultural barriers to overcoming legacy practices and preconceived notions” of the role of the commercial sector in national security.

The strategy identifies four priorities:

“First, to ensure commercial solutions are available when needed, the department will use contracts and other agreements to outline requirements.
“Second, DOD will achieve integration of commercial solutions during peacetime, including in planning, training and day-to-day operations, to allow the Department to seamlessly utilize commercial space solutions during crisis and conflict.
“Third, DOD will protect and defend against threats to U.S. national security space interests, including those in space and on the ground, and where appropriate, commercial space solutions. DOD will promote the security of commercial solutions through three lines of effort: norms and standards, threat information sharing and financial protection mechanisms.
“Fourth, the strategy emphasizes that the department will use its full range of available financial, contractual and policy tools to support the development of new commercial space solutions ‘that have the potential to support the joint force.’”

In addition, there are four foundational principles:  “balance, interoperability, resilience and responsible conduct.”

The U.S. Space Force is developing its own strategy to effectively partner with the private sector. Plumb said he “just had a long talk” with Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations, and “we’re very much aligned.” The Space Force’s strategy will be more focused on acquisition and “how he as a Service chief wants to see his military Service take this on,” while this one is “more policy focused.”

The Intelligence Community (IC), including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), similarly are looking at how to leverage the commercial sector’s innovativeness. NRO designs, builds, launches and operates the nation’s reconnaissance satellites. Plumb noted NRO has “its own commercial strategy for buying electro-optical” systems and the IC efforts “all nest together” under DOD’s strategy. They are “not at odds with each other.”

The Aerospace Industries Association expressed appreciation for DOD’s efforts. In a statement, AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning said AIA “will continue to bridge the gap between government and industry to follow through with the new strategy. … Space must be integrated into all-domain operations and seamlessly provide information and services to maintain America’s competitive edge.”

 

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