Inside Defensereports the Pentagon plans to stand up a new Space Development Agency within the next two months.
The Pentagon plans to establish a new Space Development Agency under the authority of Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin by the end of March, according to a new memo from acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan. The Jan. 19 memo, obtained by Inside Defense , directs Griffin to develop a plan to create the new agency. The plan is due March 1 and the intent is to stand up the agency no later than March 29.
The agency’s purpose is to revitalize the Defense Department’s space systems by shortening research and development time and cutting through red tape. Critics have questioned whether adding a new agency to the department’s bureaucracy would accomplish these goals.
Griffin previously served as administrator of NASA under President George W. Bush.
SpaceNewsreports that Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin has drafted DARPA to help put together the DOD’s Space Development Agency, which is designed to help cut through red tape to develop new systems rapidly.
In a Dec. 6 memo titled, “Space Development Agency Study Team Direction and Tasking,” Griffin directed Fred Kennedy, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, to lead a study team and come up with recommendations for the “implementation of the Space Development Agency.”
A DoD source shared the contents of the memo with SpaceNews. The memo was sent to key leaders across the department, including the secretaries of the military services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Strategic Command, as well as the director of the National Reconnaissance Office.
Kennedy was not given a lot of time to complete the study. “I expect this effort will require 45 to 60 days,” Griffin wrote. The DARPA team has to provide an “interim progress report” within 30 days to Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and the space governance committee.
Space Newsreports that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, who serves as undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, are at odds over how to create a new space development agency designed to transform how the military creates advanced space technologies.
In her memo, Wilson suggests the Space Development Agency should be organized under the existing Space Rapid Capabilities Office and that it should be geographically and organizationally connected to U.S. Space Command. She recommends using “existing structures designed and chartered to acquire capabilities rapidly, rather than establishing new structures.”
Griffin is proposing a new D.C.-based agency with a staff of 112 government personnel that would report to him initially, but eventually would shift to the control of a new assistant secretary of defense for space, an office that would first have to be approved by Congress.
In Wilson’s plan, the Space Development Agency and other acquisition organizations would transition to the new Department of the Space Force. She pointedly pushes back on the idea of having an assistant secretary of defense for space or a Space Development Agency that reports to that office. She argues that such a setup would create additional bureaucracy that would be removed from the operators who use and maintain the equipment.
The space development agency is part of an effort by the Trump Administration to establish an independent space force within the Department of Defense.