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 know-how applications introduced they had 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 Power and House Power, mentioned he could not clarify why protection organizations proceed to attempt to reinvent the wheel, creating applied sciences that exist already available on the market. business.

The director of the Silicon Valley-based Protection Innovation Unit, Michael Brown, 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 accomplished by the DIU to deliver know-how business to army applications.

Then there’s Nicolas Chaillan, former director of software program for the Air Power. He departed in October and has raised considerations about lagging Protection Division efforts to advance crucial applied sciences the place China is gaining a bonus, similar 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 Division of Protection for ignoring pleas to “purchase business 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 using business house know-how, notably small satellites and small-satellite constellation providers, to remain forward of China.

The Protection Division’s entrenched acquisition processes are an issue, he mentioned. The system was designed to attenuate the possibility of failure, making a tradition conflict with a business house trade that’s extra danger tolerant. The House Power 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 mentioned. “If we do not make these adjustments and we do it now, we’re going to lose house superiority to China within the subsequent 10 years.”

Harnessing business house know-how will not be solely essential for nationwide safety, but additionally for bolstering the nationwide industrial base, Eftimiades mentioned. “To this point, no business small satellite tv for pc service has confirmed viable with out authorities assist. And but, the expansion of this trade can have a dramatic influence on the nationwide safety of the US.”

Throughout a webinar on the Atlantic Council report, house trade veteran Paul Graziani mentioned he’s involved that regardless of calls to motion from high leaders to make use of extra business know-how, the Division of Protection’s procurement paperwork Protection will create obstacles.

Graziani is CEO of COMSPOC Corp., a supplier of house situational consciousness software program and providers.

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

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

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

The report highlights the House Improvement Company as a vibrant spot in army house acquisition.

SDA, established in 2019 to disrupt the standard method to army house 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 business merchandise and transferring at a tempo not often seen in protection applications. SDA, nonetheless, is only a cog within the wheel.


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

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

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