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Space: Is the DOD Procurement Culture the Next Challenge? Courtesy National Defense Industrial Association & National Defense Magazine

Space: Is the DOD Procurement Culture the Next Challenge?

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According to a recent article by the National Defense Magazine, “A Pentagon budget crunch and the SpaceX lawsuit could be the catalysts that force the government to accept a new business model, said Charles Miller, president of the consulting firm NexGen Space.”

Miller added that

“You want industry to have some skin in the game. You need competition.”

A Pentagon budget crunch and the SpaceX lawsuit could be the catalysts that force the government to accept a new business model, said Charles Miller, president of the consulting firm NexGen Space.  “You want industry to have some skin in the game. You need competition,” he said.

The American Security Project has outlined the importance of private sector development in space technology as opposed to purchasing rocket engines that are built in Russia.

There is no doubt on the value of space technology to the United States. As evident by a 2013 Defense Business Board Report, the United States has significant expenditure “on commercial satellite services” for the purposes of communication, indicating the dependence of private-sector space technology for the country.

The United States’ dependence on Russia for space technology is a matter of grave concern. American policymakers believe that China and Russia “have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities with clear intentions”, which could lead to severe consequences for the “warfighting and intelligence gathering capabilities” of the United States in case of any conflict in regions such as Ukraine or the Pacific.

The American Security Project believes that as a result of Russia’s “aggressive policies towards peripheral countries” such as the Russian actions in the Crimean Peninsula, the United States should consider exploring the U.S. rocket engine industry as opposed to a continued reliance on Russian RD-180 engines.

In regards to a DoD headed “review into the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine,” CEO of the American Security project, BGen Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.) has stated that

“The Pentagon’s review of the RD-180 engine is an important step for both the short-term and long-term sustainability of the US space program as well as our national security as a whole. It’s absolutely unacceptable that the United States Air Force, one of the foremost defenders of the United States’ standing in the international community, is a direct supporter of Russian military and aerospace development as well as individuals within Vladimir Putin’s closest circle.

Even more frustrating is the fact that this whole scenario is playing out while we are seeing a surge of private development in the sector domestically. Solutions to this problem exist, and it doesn’t require compromising standards, efficiency, or timelines. Our government has the power to spur competition in the industry and by doing so, it ensures that the US remains at the forefront of progress into space. The longer we wait to address this issue, the more difficult it is to solve.”

Paul Hamill, the Chief Operating Officer and Director of External Relations at the American Security Project, was quoted in a National Defense Magazine article. Hamill asserted that

 “It seems that the Air Force is still stuck in the old contracting mindset. ULA has been fantastic for the Air Force. But they need to develop products without government backing. They have to develop their own rocket with their own money. We are in a different era now. We need public-private partnerships.”

Keeping this in mind, Hamill’s quote is even important to consider in the present scenario of deteriorating U.S. – Russian ties. The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia as a result of Russian involvement in Ukraine since March 2014.  Partnerships between the public and private sector in space technology are ever-so crucial for the United States today.

Read the complete article on the website of the National Defense Magazine.

Read more on ASP’s research on “National Security & Space.”

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