In a move to deter the use of Special Access Programs status, Kathleen Hicks, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has endorsed a new classification policy for space programs. According to a senior official, this new policy dramatically limits clearances to a handful of U.S. officials in hopes of opening Secret programs to more stakeholders, including allies of the U.S. and industry partners.

Special Access Program Overuse

The new memo, which itself is classified, overwrites a legacy document that had its roots 20 years ago and no longer applies to the current environment involving national security space, stated DoD Assistant Secretary for Space Policy John Plumb. According to Plumb, the key issue has been the overuse of SAPs that not only limit the ability to share with allies and industry but hinders communication within the DoD.

Sharing information about space threats is at the core of a new DoD international space cooperation strategy, Plumb said. “Our network of allies and partners is an asymmetric advantage” as China and Russia threaten to disrupt U.S. and allied satellites.

“So, anything we can bring from a SAP level to a Top Secret level for example, brings massive value to the warfighter, massive value to the department, and frankly, my hope is over time [it] will also allow us to share more information with allies and partners that they might not currently be able to share,” said Plumb.

Minimum Classification for the Future

Plumb continued by explaining that the DoD will be “assigning minimum classifications to a various number of things, which will then allow the services to examine their own programs and determine ‘should this really be SAP-ed any more?’

“Inside the beltway, people always ask me about how can I make things unclassified? And that is not actually a thing I’m all that concerned about. I’m concerned about reducing the classification of things where they are over-classified to the point that it hampers our ability to get work done or hamper the ability of the warfighter to do their mission,” Plumb continued.

Plumb noted that many folks are looking to get started with the new process, but it will take time to work its way down through the ‘bureaucracy’.

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Aaron Knowles has been writing news for more than 10 years, mostly working for the U.S. Military. He has traveled the world writing sports, gaming, technology and politics. Now a retired U.S. Service Member, he continues to serve the Military Community through his non-profit work.