Space Ops Command Seeks Industry Aid to ‘Scale Up’ Innovation

 In Industry, Acquisition, & Innovation, Space

Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt

WASHINGTON: Figuring out how to scale up the use of secure digital design and innovative ideas from small firms will be one of the first orders of business for the Space Force command responsible for overseeing all military satellite programs following its official start-up on Wednesday, says Maj. Gen. DeAnna Burt.

“Any ideas there from industry of how you guys organized to take grassroots-level ideas from parts of your divisions and then scale them across the enterprise, those would be interesting thoughts,” Burt, who directs operations and communications at Space Force headquarters. told the virtual SpaceCom event today. “I’d love to take those, because we’re looking at how do we organize headquarters Space Operations Command here after we stand up this week.”

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett on Wednesday will officially launch Space Operations Command, or SpOC, re-designating the current Space Force HQ at Petersen AFB as the HQ SpOC from now on.

The SpOC is one of three Space Force commands announced in June, along with Space Systems Command (SSC, which will take over Space and Missile Systems Center) and Space Training and Readiness Command (STAR Command). It oversees operations of US military satellites, and is currently commanded by Maj. Gen. John Shaw (who on Oct. 2 was nominated to be deputy commander of Space Command and another star.) In essence, SpOC replicates the old Air Force Space Command. While the Air Force officially re-designated 14th Air Force as the SpOC last December, the Space Force has been in the throes of re-jiggering its field command structure since then.

“This re-designation will align the field command responsibility for organizing, training, equipping, and presenting USSF forces to the staff and commander responsible for executing this mission. The physical location of the Service’s headquarters will transition to the Pentagon supporting the CSO [Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond] in Washington, D.C.,” explains a Space Force press release.

At the same time, the current SpOC HQ at Vandenberg AFB in California will be re-designated Space Operations Command West (SpOC West). “SpOC West will be responsible for executing space warfighting operations in support of Combatant Commanders, Coalition partners, the Joint Force, and the Nation. SpOC West will also serve as the headquarters and staff of U.S. Space Command’s (USSPACECOM) Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC),” the release says.

Burt said that Space Force HQ in Washington, under Maj. Gen. William Liquori as deputy chief of space operations for strategy, plans, programs, requirements and analysis, will handle the “big programs of record, and big ‘R’ requirements, and big contracting.”

“We see ourselves at headquarters SpOC being this enabler to DevSecOps. How do we do these small innovations and the small things, so that we can continue to make the fight-tonight mission better?” she said.

SpOC will continue to work with small businesses and venture capital firms at Catalyst Campus in Colorado Spring as a first step in integrating them into DoD’s acquisition ecosystem, she said.

“I’m an operator, not an acquirer, by trade, but one of the places where I see us having lots of good interactions are at Catalyst Campus here locally,” she said. “We have this development test-bed where we can have folks come and show us things and capabilities that they do.”

One of the key issues with bringing in innovation from the private sector, she noted, is ensuring proper levels of security without hampering the ability of firms to grow and continue to do cutting-edge work.

“We’re working towards a PlatformONE and the Unified Data Library, and how we can expose space data so that folks can see the problem sets we’re talking about and how to do that in an unclassified level,” she said.

“I think that’s the hardest part for the Space Force is the challenge of security, and how would we work with small business in enable technologies that you guys have … and scale it up and help you with the security part of it, to be able to get to Secret, TS/SCI and even to some of our Special Access Program levels,” she added.

The other lever for integrating innovative ideas are the Space Force’s Combat Development Divisions (CDDs) that have their own “wing innovation funds” to seek out solutions to near-term tactical problems.

The concept of the innovation funds being given down to squadron level was launched by former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein back in 2018. The goal was to allow airmen “to think and act like start-ups” and help them “deliver bottom-up solutions,” according to a service press release at the time.

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