During October’s 2018 Military Reporters & Editors conference that was held in Washington, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan spoke candidly about the Trump administration’s challenges with implementing the new Space Force plan. While some feel that this new agency represents nothing more than overpriced public relations, it’s clear from Shanahan’s comments that this agency is going to be about affecting real change.
Trump’s Space Force offers a big vision for increasing efforts and presence around the final frontier, but we can’t ignore that behind it exists a dire need for procurement reform and modernization if we’re going to make sure the tech capacity is there for tomorrow’s space force.
Shanahan has been tasked with overseeing this new branch that’s going to be called The Space Development Agency. Essentially, it’s going to be a new military branch for space that will operate independently of any current space agencies in government. His first step will be to stand-up the agency and grow from there. This all stems from an agreement that the US military will modernize their space systems, but the “how” of it all is still being fiercely debated.
Pushing for real change
A common theme throughout Shanahan’s address was the need for change if this agency is going to be successful in achieving the results DoD needs. He stressed that individual agencies are currently working on developing their own solutions to their problems and that it absolutely has to be more well coordinated. The goal is to align all departments to ensure that valuable resources aren’t being wasted on solving the same problem multiple times.
The ultimate goal is for The Space Development Agency to become a hub for commercial space technology so that any new developments can be deployed across DoD, versus in a single department like what is happening now. In order for real change to happen, the agencies, DoD included, can’t continue to do things the same way they always have.
A new beginning
After spending decades trying to patch and fix the procurement system to speed up the development of emerging technology, it’s clear that The Pentagon and Congress are in agreement that it no longer makes sense to continue doing things the same way.
According to Shanahan, “The space reorganization is not going to attempt to tackle those big problems — that takes too much time.” He went on to say that this agency will serve as a starting point and that once it’s standing, they’ll “expand in parallel to how quickly the organization can restructure itself.”
While there has yet to be any agreement or arrangement made for topline budget or where these resources are going to be coming from, one thing is crystal clear, the DoD is taking space tech seriously. They clearly recognize how crucial its development is to the security and sustainability of our nation. And that’s something we can get behind.
While it’s clear that this new agency will have major challenges to work through if it’s going to be successful, we are optimistic that this new branch can become instrumental in continuing to bring private and public together.