An overview of the American Space Renaissance Act (part 1)
by Michael Listner
|Considering geopolitical adversaries are focusing their strategies on information denial, interoperability between space and cyber systems could create a central vulnerability that might not otherwise exist for systems that do not share interoperability.|
Notably, Section 101 appears to supplement the National Space Policy, whose National Security Guidelines create a policy environment that is preventative in nature and not responsive.3 That is to say, while the National Space Policy’s view towards threats is anticipatory in nature, Section 101 of the Act mandates a responsive archetype be developed.
Section 101 then moves to organization and amends Title 10, Subtitle A, Part IV, Chapter 135, which creates the new designation of Principal Defense Space Advisor. 4 Section 101 amends Title 10, Subtitle A, Part IV, Chapter 135 with 10 U.S.C. § 2279d,5 which supersedes the position of Department of Defense Executive Agent for Space (EA4S).6 Per 10 U.S.C. § 2279d, the Principal Defense Space Advisor will:
The overall effect of this provision appears to re-designate the position of Principal Advisor on Space Control per 10 U.S.C. § 2279a and flesh out the position’s statutory responsibilities. It stands to reason the duties outlined for Principal Defense Space Advisor are identical to those of Principal Advisor on Space Control, and the effect of the Act is to ensure those duties are mandated by Congress and not at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense.
Section 101 also addresses the amalgamation and interoperability of cyberspace and space situational awareness assets across the DoD’s outer space, cyberspace, and air operations centers.9 Section 101 would require the DoD to submit a strategy to Congressional defense-related committees within 180 of the Act’s implementation. The Act would require the strategy to include:
The act appears to desire more interoperability and hence data sharing between space and cyber systems. This dashboard approach to space situational and cyber awareness seems to represent a concerted effort towards an information-centric strategy for warfighters and less cost to the taxpayer. However, a central nexus and interoperability for both space situational awareness and cyberwarfare could prove to be an Achilles’ heel despite the cost savings. Considering geopolitical adversaries are focusing their strategies on information denial, interoperability between space and cyber systems could create a central vulnerability that might not otherwise exist for systems that do not share interoperability.
Section 101 of the act amends 10 U.S.C. 2275, which codifies reports on integration of acquisition and capability delivery schedules for segments of major satellite acquisition programs and funding for such programs.10 Section 101 amends 10 U.S.C. 2275 to replace subsection (g) to create a certification requirement. Specifically, the proposed amendment will require Secretary of Defense certify to Congressional defense committees11 that each major satellite acquisition program has received Milestone B12 approval as an integrated program.13 The amendment requires Milestone C approval not to be granted to an acquisition program without such a certification and for the Secretary of Defense to brief Congressional defense committees as to why certification was not made.
The act takes up the issue of hosted payloads on commercial satellites.14 There are three specific mandates for hosted payloads.15 First, the Act requires the Department of Defense use hosted payloads for space architectures to the extent it is practical to do so. Next, the Act appears to give preference to American launch companies:
Beginning January 1, 2026, the Secretary shall give preference to launching hosted payloads on launch vehicles owned and operated by companies domiciled in the United States.
This mandate in the Act is curious because a hosted payload is a passenger on a commercial satellite, which means the commercial satellite carrying the hosted payload must intend to use a US-domiciled commercial launcher absent a grant of an exception.16 This is consistent with the National Space Transportation Space Policy. Doubtless, this mandate is aimed at companies like Intelsat, which have hosted payloads arrangements with DoD.17 A suggested rewording of this provision would require companies who have hosted-payload contracts with the DoD to utilize US-domiciled launchers for any primary spacecraft carrying a DoD hosted payload. This would place the directive to utilize US-domiciled launchers properly with the manufacturer/owner of the primary spacecraft and not the DoD and remain consistent with the National Space Transportation Policy.
|While hosted payloads have a definite advantage and seeking commercial opportunities is consistent with the National Space Policy and the National Space Transportation Policy, the effect of political opinion should not override realistic requirements of a DoD mission.|
Finally, the hosted payload provision of the Act mandates the Secretary of Defense and the Principal Defense Space Advisor to submit a plan to increase the use of hosted payloads, which must be submitted within 180 days of the Act’s authorization. The plan is required to contain an analysis of how the DoD can increase the use of hosted payloads, including any DoD missions over the next five years that can use alternatively become a hosted payload. The plan must also include criteria and standards for new entrants into the hosted payload program. This is plainly an effort to foster competition to achieve cost-savings.
The stipulation in the Act to require hosted payloads is consistent with the National Transportation Space Policy18. Hosted payload offer many advantages to the DoD, including shorter time to space, lower cost, a more resilient architecture, increased access to space, and operational options and shared control. The Act appears to be honing in on these advantages; however, the question is to what extent the use of hosted payloads is based on political motivations versus operational realities. The use of hosted payloads is attractive from the perspective of cost, but the advantage of cost versus operational realities should be given primary consideration. That is to say, while hosted payloads have a definite advantage and seeking commercial opportunities is consistent with the National Space Policy and the National Space Transportation Policy, the effect of political opinion should not override realistic requirements of a DoD mission.
The act takes the policy position DoD should examine the opportunities offered by high-volume satellite manufacturing in the commercial sector as the capability for that manufacturing emerges. That includes whether high-volume satellite manufacturing in the commercial sector could dramatically lower costs through leveraging economies of scale and also contribute to resiliency through proliferated constellations. The act requires the Secretary of Defense and the Principal Defense Space Advisor to submit, within one year of the passage of the act, a report detailing an assessment of desirable protection capabilities that would enhance the integration of commercial space systems into national security space architectures. The assessment must include:
Before submitting the assessment, the Secretary of Defense is required to consult with the commercial space industry regarding the findings in the assessment.19 Similar to hosted payloads, there may be a cost advantage to seeking commercial spacecraft for DoD space needs, but the question is to what extent political influence would effect DoD requirements when making that decision.
The act crafts policy consistent with the National Space Policy,20 which stipulates an environment for DoD satellite operations where current and future satellite communications architectures of the Department of Defense should be resilient and integrated.21 To achieve this policy goal, the Act specifies DoD satellite architectures should include an enterprise-level situational awareness network and capabilities to dynamically, efficiently, and seamlessly allocate satellite communications capacity and shift between frequencies and levels of protection.22 To advance this policy, the Act requires the following:
Section 103 of the act addresses the importance of the Global Positioning System (GPS) for national security and economic prosperity, and takes the policy position the system be reliable and secure.32 Section 103 requires the Secretary of Defense to submit a strategy to ensure DoD receivers leverage signals from the GPS, Galileo, and other positioning systems, including signals from commercial satellite constellations. The strategy must deal with issues associated with monitoring and verification of the accuracy, integrity, availability, and security of foreign and commercial positioning, navigation, and timing signals; mechanisms for timely notification to military users of the current and projected reliability of such foreign and commercial systems; and methods for sharing information across the Global Positioning System, the Galileo system, and other positioning, navigation, and timing systems to improve the interoperability and effectiveness of the systems for military users.33
Section 104 of the act takes on the importance of space-based weather monitoring. The Act stipulates a policy that commercial space-based weather systems can help mitigate coverage of critical weather requirements and augment government weather systems to generate weather data at lower costs to the taxpayer. The Act posits DoD should incorporate commercial space-based weather data into its modeling and should maximize the use of commercial weather data and services, as well as incentivize the growth of commercial weather data and services.34
The act requires the President to create a National Executive Committee on Weather no later than one year after the passage of the Act.35 The purpose of the committee will be to coordinate weather-related matters across the federal departments and agencies, and the act would require the President to appoint the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Administrator of NOAA co-chairs of the committee. The committee must consist of a permanent national office secretariat, an international working group and an engineering working group.
The act requires the Secretary of Defense to develop standards for commercial weather data to include quality, security, reliability and cybersecurity within one year after the passage of the Act.36
The act authorizes the appropriation to the Secretary of the Air Force $40,000,000 of fiscal year 2017 appropriations for space for research, development, test and evaluation of methodologies for space survivability and surveillance.37
The act requires DoD and NOAA to coordinate no later than one year from the date of enactment of the act on the development of a capability to forecast, detect, and issue warnings of electromagnetic pulse events, solar radio bursts, and energetic particles, and a timely notification and warning of these events for government and private sector entities.38
The act limits fiscal year 2016 funds available to the Secretary of the Air Force for weather model forecasting by the Air Force Weather Agency to 10 percent until the Secretary of the Air Force certifies a full and open competition to award a contract for the weather forecasting model used by the Air Force Weather Agency. The act requires the Secretary of the Air Force to establish the technical standards required to integrate weather forecasting models into DoD systems.39
The act requires the Secretary of Defense to carry out a pilot program to award at least one contract to test the practicability of using commercial weather data for DoD weather modeling and forecasting. The act authorizes the Secretary of Defense to spend at least $10,000,000 of fiscal year 2017 funding to carry out the pilot program.
The act asserts the position the suite of instruments and orbital characteristics of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) could enhance weather prediction, and the Secretary of Defense should examine and exploit any weather capabilities SBIRS might possess. The act directs the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to the House Armed Services Committee within 180 days of the passing of the act that examines this potential.40
|If two launch providers bid on a payload and both launchers have US-built engines as defined by the act, does the Secretary of Defense make the 25-percent assumption? Also, there is a question of whether the 25-percent assumption truly reflects the cost of the launcher to the federal government.|
On first blush this is troubling. SBIRS is a dedicated platform for missile early warning, missile defense, battlespace awareness, and technical intelligence mission areas for DoD and the intelligence community. It is unclear what effect gathering weather data will have on those missions, not to mention whether extending the mission to gathering weather data will shorten the lifespan of the satellites and the sensors. It is likely if this act is passed and the required report is produced, these issues will be explored in addition to the practicability of utilizing this asset for weather data collection.
The act requires, within 180 days of enactment, that the Secretary of Defense submit a report to the Congressional defense committees a report on how and whether Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) payloads can mitigate gaps in DoD weather data requirements. 41
The act prohibits the Secretary of Defense from relying on space-based weather data provided by foreign governments and requires a briefing no later than 180 days after enactment on how DoD plans to comply with the prohibition.42 This provision was likely motivated by events in 2014, where Europe committed to maintaining a satellite over the Indian Ocean and then reversed itself several months later, creating a gap in weather coverage for the DoD over that area.
The act addresses space situational awareness in three ways, which harmonizes with the National Space Policy to:
[d]evelop, maintain, and use space situational awareness (SSA) information from commercial, civil, and national security sources to detect, identify, and attribute actions in space that are contrary to responsible use and the long-term sustainability of the space environment;43
The act provides the following:
The act addresses launch services through policy, funding, and amendments to existing law.
The act gives priority to US launchers that use US-built rocket engines48 for DoD launches procured beginning January 1, 2023. In doing so, Section 106 stipulates a questionable provision whereby:
…the Secretary of Defense shall treat any offer that proposes the use of a rocket engine described in paragraph as costing the Federal Government 25 percent less than the price listed in the offer.49
This provision of the act appears to incentivize the use of US-built rocket engines (as defined by the act) starting in 2023 by applying a political calculus to any bid for a launcher for a DoD payload. Per Section 106, the Secretary of Defense will assume the cost to DoD in a bid that uses a rocket engine described in the Act will be 25 percent less than the price quoted in the bid. The provision does not flesh this out nor give instruction to the Secretary of Defense as to how to incorporate this calculus when evaluating a bid, nor in what circumstances it should apply.
For example, if two launch providers bid on a payload and both launchers have US-built engines as defined by the act, does the Secretary of Defense make the 25-percent assumption? Also, there is a question of whether the 25-percent assumption truly reflects the cost of the launcher to the federal government. These and other peculiarities create variables that would make a bid using this political calculus ripe for a lawsuit before the Federal Court of Claims. However, it is likely this will be a moot point as US-domiciled launch providers will likely have moved to US-built engines before this provision would take effect.
Aside from the nebulous application of this provision to future bidding, it does appear to give an implicit nod to the continued use of the RD-180 for the Atlas V until 2022 for national security payloads. If this is the case, this provision of the act could run afoul of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and his efforts to curtail and outright ban the use of the RD-180 for national security payloads. Moreover, efforts by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Strategic Forces Subcommittee, to bring a replacement engine online for the Atlas V by 2019 could be implicated, which brings into question the political viability of this proviso.
Section 106 of the act seeks to utilize Venture-Class Launch Services (VCLS), which suggests there is a perception of a need for a dedicated CubeSat launcher for the military.50 The act would require the Secretary of Defense, the Principal Defense Space Advisor, and the Director of the Space Test Program to competitively award at least four VCLS contracts. The Act authorizes at least $27,600,000 to carry out this initiative.51
This provision of the Act amends 10 U.S.C. § 2273a(c),52 changing the mission of the ORS Office consistent with the National Space Policy53 to:
[e]nsure that, in developing the capabilities for operationally responsive space, the Office prioritizes market research and the identification of commercial capabilities and services
[b]efore commencing the development of any program, the head of the Office shall certify to the congressional defense committees that no commercial capability or service, with or without minor modifications, can meet the requirements for which such program is being developed.54
The Act also requires the Director of the ORS Office to provide congressional defense committees with a briefing outlining any acquisition authority available to DoD but not available to the office.55
The Act authorizes the Air Force to spend at least $4,000,000 in fiscal year 2017 for foreign comparative testing to be used on studies for the potential for non-domestic launch service providers domiciled on the territory of US allies to serve as a reserve to perform national security launches.56 This concept, while at this juncture is only proposed as a study, could conflict with the National Transportation Space Policy and require a change of the law if it is decided to take this route.57
Section 107 of the act again takes a cue from the National Space Policy with regards to utilizing commercial services for control of the Air Force satellite constellations. This section would mandate the Secretary of the Air Force to contract with a commercial entity to fully carry out the day-to-day operations of the Air Force Satellite Control Network by January 1, 2018.58
|Significantly, the act maximizes the use of commercial services, which appears to be a means to augment the value to taxpayers. However, the use of commercial services is a two-edged sword.|
Section 107 also directs the Secretary of the Air Force to submit a report on this issue to congressional defense committees, which must include a detailed strategy to facilitate commercial control of Air Force satellite constellations, and an assessment of the use of a private sector company to conduct the day-to-day operations of the satellite operations. Significantly, the private mandate does not include mission planning and warfighting operations.59
Section 108 of the act begins by stating the view of Congress that the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGC) and the National Reconnaissance Office should continue their efforts to implement:
The act also takes the position the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency should expand its use of open-source methods and data to answer questions directed to it by the intelligence community.60
The act also requires the Director of the NGA provide a briefing to congressional defense committees regarding funding requirements and any new acquisition authorities necessary to accelerate the programs and initiatives outlined in the Commercial Geospatial Intelligence Strategy of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.61
The American Space Renaissance Act takes a bold approach to bringing national security into harmony. It also takes steps to supplement the directives of the National Space Policy, the National Space Transportation Policy, and other policies in order to address the evolving fiscal, geopolitical, and threat environment.
Significantly, the act maximizes the use of commercial services, which appears to be a means to augment the value to taxpayers. However, the use of commercial services is a two-edged sword. On one hand, competition and the use commercial services can provide cost-effective means to perform some DoD functions. On the other hand, commercial space services and competition are too easily used as political tools, which can overshadow the actual needs of warfighters. Thus, while the act makes some ambitious suppositions about the practicability of commercial entities to take over military functions, Congressional leaders would be wise to be wary that needs of the warfighters takes precedence over political presupposition.