To maintain supremacy, Saltzman unveils strategy for tighter, more immersive collaboration with space industries

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  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman unveiled the U.S. Space Force’s new strategy April 10 to better integrate commercial skill, talent, and products into the service as a key step for ensuring continued superiority at a time when space is more important and dangerous than ever.

Long in development, the U.S. Space Force’s official Commercial Space Strategy is a detailed blueprint for allowing industry to be more immersed in Space Force plans, development, and operations. It also recognizes, Saltzman said, that the traditional approach of a military service dictating terms and needs to industry partners is no longer sufficient or wise.

“This strategy acknowledges that old ways of doing business will not produce the results we need,” Saltzman said in remarks April 10 at the Space Symposium.

“The Space Force must harness the benefits for technological innovation and emerging capabilities if we are going to be able to outcompete our competitors – or the Space Force will lose; the joint force will lose, and the U.S. will lose,” he warned.

At the same time, Saltzman said the Space Force’s new strategy, as important as it is, doesn’t provide all the answers. “The Commercial Space Strategy is not a panacea; it does not provide the answers. But I do think it frames the discussion that must take place, it sets the conditions for productive collaboration, and it starts the critical processes needed to accelerate the purposeful pursuit of hybrid space architectures.”

The Space Force’s approach is guided by four over-arching mandates required by the Department of Defense. One component is “balance,” meaning the right mix of government and commercial “solutions.” The others are “interoperability,” “resilience,” which aim to increase the number of providers and diversify supply chains, and “responsible conduct” to ensure tax dollars are spent wisely while providing the tools and technology Space Force needs to proper respond to actions in space by China, Russia, and other nations.

“With China and Russia now challenging our space superiority at levels never before seen in the domain, the frontiers of science and technology – the innovation that can be found in the commercial space sector will be crucial to our success,” Saltzman said.

According to the Space Force approach, those four broad requirements will be refined and focused by four goals that are specific to Space Force.

The first is “collaborative transparency,” which Saltzman said demands “all stakeholders” are aware “of the capabilities and limitations of their partners if we are to work together to solve our operational challenges. If industry doesn’t understand our challenges, they cannot contribute and if we do not understand what industry can bring to bear, we miss opportunities.”

The second is “operational and technical integration,” which is designed to avoid the technological mismatches and blind spots that have slowed product development in the past. “In this line of effort, we will work the details of integrating commercial space solutions into a hybrid space architecture,” Saltzman said. To get there, Space Force will develop “policies, processes, technical standards and procedures that allow the commercial sector to integrate data and hardware with the Space Force.”

The third focus is “risk management.” While the goal is familiar, Saltzman said it will carry a greater emphasis. “The Space Force will work to ensure that all stakeholders understand risks and receive actionable, timely data to aid in risk mitigation. But this must be a collective effort by all partners,” he said.

The final line of effort, Saltzman said, also carries a familiar ring – “securing our future.”

In this regard, “Space Force will continue to seek out emerging technologies in the commercial space sector that have the potential to support the joint and combined force today and, in the future,” Saltzman said.

While advanced technology is a goal, Saltzman said timeliness and greater certainty that “solutions” address actual problems are also important.

“The Space Force will prioritize science and technology efforts that are tailored to the operational environment and optimized for fielding capabilities on operationally relevant timelines,” he said.

There also must be clarity on “what missions will need to be performed, what threats will we face, and what technologies can we bring to bear to meet our operational challenges? We know we will need substantial support from the space industry to answer these vital questions,” Saltzman said.

The new strategy also recognizes another reality—tight budgets that are uncertain in timing. Senior Space Force and Department of the Air Force leaders believe the strategy will help the service squeeze every benefit from every tax dollar.

Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall alluded to the need—and the pressure—in a keynote speech to the Space Symposium immediately before Saltzman spoke.

“I am determined to leave the Air Force and Space Force on a trajectory that can keep us ahead of our pacing challenge. If we fall behind in a race for technological superiority it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to recover,” Kendall said.

While the strategy and its particulars are new, the concept and history of industry collaboration are not.

“Throughout our nation’s history, military success has hinged on support from commercial industry,” Saltzman said. In space operations, we have become more comfortable using commercial capabilities to add capacity than we have with fully integrated commercial capabilities into our force design.”

The catalyst driving all of it, Saltzman said, is the indispensable nature of space today not just for the military but for the global economy. Without space, such familiar daily activities as using a cell phone, buying groceries or gas with a credit card, and ensuring a reliable, uninterrupted flow of electricity and water would be difficult.

“Our economy, as with that of the rest of the world, is also dependent on unfettered access to the domain,” Saltzman said, adding, “In short, space capabilities and the continued access to a safe, stable and secure space domain is a vital U.S. interest.”