Leverage Commercial Technology or Lose Edge in Space

For the sake of national security, the military must do a better job of leveraging commercial technology in space. That's the theme of a growing chorus of trade press articles, exemplified well by two stories published last week.

The first article from National Defense gets right to the point in its title: “Government Has Lost Its Technological Edge Over Opponents.” And it is not an industry executive making such a statement but rather Michael Dumont, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low intensity conflict:

"Many of our adversaries have acquired, developed and even stolen technologies that have put them on somewhat equal footing with the West in a range of areas,” the article quoted him as saying. “Collectively … we need to get out ahead of this and stay in front of it.”

The piece goes on to say there will be an increasing focus on special operations forces to maintain order in the “global commons.” Technology developed by industry is a critical part of maintaining the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) advantage such forces require.

The second article is from Space News, and highlights a House Armed Forces Committee hearing on new technology. During the hearing Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) directed some detailed questions to Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Bridenstine stressed the bandwidth throughput superiority of commercial systems operating today over that of the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) system operated by the military.

Kendall said that the military is looking to leverage commercial technology, specifically to disaggregate national space assets and make them more resilient in case of conflict. Here is a link to a short video of this exchange.

Hopefully a consensus will continue to build for a closer and more collaborative relationship between the commercial space industry and the military. Some satellite constellations should be and always will be operated by the military. But for a wide range of applications, governments must leverage more effectively the huge commercial advantage in technological innovation and time to market.

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