DOD Space Organizations: What IT Companies Need to Know

Stephanie Meloni

By Stephanie Meloni, Market Intelligence Manager

DOD has made it clear: the space domain is a huge modernization priority. Concern over peer adversaries’ capabilities and adverse effects are a concern in every domain—sea, land, air, cyber—and space.

So many critical U.S. assets are hosted in space, and an attack on them would be potentially devastating. Because satellites are so vital to the technology we use in daily life, lawmakers and DOD leadership want to ensure that their ability to operate is better protected. As such, DOD has requested a 17% increase to the portfolio of space programs, bringing the total to $14B for the FY2020 budget request.

What DOD has not made quite clear–because there are still so many details to be worked out, many of them dependent on lawmakers–is exactly how its proposed and existing space organizations will align to support the goal of advancing U.S. space capabilities. Here’s an overview and status of the organizations DOD is looking at to strengthen the space domain.

Space Force
This is arguably the most talked about space organization—and the one that faces the most controversy. The goal of Space Force, as a newly established sixth branch of the military, would be to operationally focus on protecting the space domain—and only the space domain. The FY2020 budget proposes creating Space Force as a separate branch within the Air Force, and requests $72M to go toward standing up the organization. Ultimately, funding for Space Force over its first five years would be about $2B. Lawmakers and some DOD leadership have expressed concerns about the potential for increased bureaucracy, cost and necessity. Ultimately, Congress will have the final say and will need to authorize Space Force as part of the FY2020 NDAA.

Space Command
SPACECOM has garnered more lawmaker support than Space Force because, as a Combatant Command (COCOM) for Space, its goal is to focus on military warfighting in space and achieving space superiority. Many lawmakers feel that SPACECOM would put enough focus on space to address the threats—without the need to establish a separate Space Force. SPACECOM, which was previously absorbed into STRATCOM, is now being stood up as the fifth functional COCOM. The FY2020 budget requests $84M going toward starting SPACECOM. The commander of SPACECOM will be dual-hatted as the commander of Air Force Space Command.

Space Development Agency
Finally, SDA was created as a separate defense agency from SPACECOM and Space Force, although it would ultimately report to Space Force. The organization is focused on developing and acquiring new space capabilities, including prototyping and considering new industry-government partnerships to adopt commercial solutions. One criticism that SDA has faced is its similarity in mission with the Air Force’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office. SDA is requesting $150M in FY2020.

Despite the debates surrounding these organizations, both lawmakers and military leadership agree on the importance of protecting space assets—and that really needs to be the main takeaway for industry right now, as so many details are still TBD. Budget requests for space-related programs will likely continue to increase. Much of what needs to be done, regardless of exactly who in the organization that does it, will center on modernizing the architecture that supports our space assets. So, there is certainly a need for IT, including off-the-shelf solutions.

Data integration, configuration management, network and data resiliency, systems engineering, networking and command and control are just a few of the IT requirements that will come from space modernization.

Technology companies should stay closely tied to customers who are already doing work in space—mainly Air Force Space Command–though there are plenty of other organizations with a stake in space across DOD and the Service branches. These customers and organizations are the ones who will be making decisions about space IT for the time being, as space continues to be fleshed out as a warfighting domain.


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