On National Security | Department of Defense buying habits are a continuing source of frustration

Over the course of simply six months, three high protection officers liable for expertise applications introduced they have been resigning, expressing disappointment in a tradition they see as an obstacle to innovation.

Preston Dunlap, who resigned in April as chief architect of the US Air Pressure and House Pressure, stated he could not clarify why protection organizations proceed to attempt to reinvent the wheel, creating applied sciences that exist already in the marketplace. industrial.

The director of the Silicon Valley-based Protection Innovation Unit, Michael Brown, just lately introduced that he could be leaving his publish in September and expressed disappointment on the lack of institutional assist from the Division of Protection for the work being performed by the DIU to convey expertise industrial to navy applications.

Then there’s Nicolas Chaillan, former director of software program for the Air Pressure. He departed in October and has raised considerations about lagging Protection Division efforts to advance vital applied sciences the place China is gaining a bonus, equivalent to synthetic intelligence, machine studying and cyber warfare.

Final month, the Atlantic Council delivered a pointy critique of the space-related protection acquisition tradition. A report titled “Small Satellites: The Nationwide Safety Implications,” calls out the Protection Division for ignoring pleas to “purchase commercials first.”

Nicholas Eftimiades, the creator of the report, is a former US intelligence officer and now a non-resident fellow of the Atlantic Council. He argues that the Protection Division wants to hurry up the usage of industrial area expertise, significantly small satellites and small-satellite constellation companies, to remain forward of China.

The Protection Division’s entrenched acquisition processes are an issue, he stated. The system was designed to attenuate the prospect of failure, making a tradition conflict with a industrial area trade that’s extra danger tolerant. The House Pressure has taken some steps to shut the gaps, she added, however that is extra the exception than the rule.

“We’re at an important level,” Eftimiades stated. “If we do not make these modifications and we do it now, we’re going to lose area superiority to China within the subsequent 10 years.”

Harnessing industrial area expertise is just not solely necessary for nationwide safety, but in addition for bolstering the nationwide industrial base, Eftimiades stated. “So far, no industrial small satellite tv for pc service has confirmed viable with out authorities assist. And but, the expansion of this trade may have a dramatic impression on the nationwide safety of america.”

Throughout a webinar on the Atlantic Council report, area trade veteran Paul Graziani stated he’s involved that regardless of calls to motion from high leaders to make use of extra industrial expertise, the Division of Protection’s procurement paperwork Protection will create obstacles.

Graziani is CEO of COMSPOC Corp., a supplier of area situational consciousness software program and companies.

The protection acquisition system is optimized to purchase plane carriers, stealth bombers and submarines, he stated. “They’re nice at it,” however working with industrial areas is “this entire new world.”

Protection Division leaders say they wish to make the most of aggressive pricing and innovation within the industrial sector, Graziani stated. However to do this, they should change the system to make it simpler for startups and entrepreneurial companies to problem established gamers, he stated.

The Atlantic Council’s “Small Satellites” report is one in all a number of dozen high-level research and evaluations that, over the previous 20 years, have known as for modifications in protection procurement. “However nothing has occurred,” Eftimiades stated. “And we preserve listening to the division say, ‘let’s examine this, let’s examine that.'”

The report highlights the House Improvement Company as a shiny spot in navy area acquisition.

SDA, established in 2019 to disrupt the normal method to navy area acquisitions, is nicely on its method to doing so, Eftimiades famous.

The company is constructing a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit utilizing industrial merchandise and shifting at a tempo hardly ever seen in protection applications. SDA, nevertheless, is only a cog within the wheel.


Sandra Erwin covers navy area for SpaceNews. She is a veteran nationwide safety journalist and former editor of Nationwide Protection journal.

“On Nationwide Safety” seems in each subject of SpaceNews journal. This column was printed within the June 2022 subject.

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