A new report, by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, suggests that it may be time to create a new cabinet-level organization to ‘manage the nation’s equities in space.

The State of the Space Industrial Base 2023 report, released Monday, states that “it may be time for the U.S. to centralize the authorities to regulate, advocate, and orchestrate national interests in space under a single department or Agency with a cabinet-level secretary – but only when the conditions are most appropriate for its assured success.”

The report is the fifth of its kind, created in part by the Pentagon’s arm of innovation. The intention of creating this report is to advocate for measures to strengthen the space industry in the U.S. Largely, the goal is to prevent China from becoming the leading space player in the global market.

A new cabinet

The report recommends that the newly developed department lead, labeled “Department of Space,” should be modeled after the Department of Energy, “wherein the Executive retains the ability to act decisively, control costs, accelerate strategic programs, and achieve impact where most immediate.”

The report stresses that the new department needs to avoid being shaped after or operating anywhere like the Department of Homeland Security since, it “continues to operate under the full weight of the bureaucracy and despite numerous deficiencies (i.e. integration with the intelligence community) that are well documented.”

The Push for the Department of Space

This document was prepared by the U.S. Space Force, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the Defense Innovation Unit, as well as including feedback from representatives of 17 of our partner nations.

The central theme of the report is that the U.S. needs to build economic security and enhance our enduring advantages in space.

The topics focused on throughout the 124-page report are assessing the current state of launch, satellite communications, remote sensing, in-space logistics, traffic management, advanced power, policy, finance, and space workforce development.

These pillars are the key to the U.S. maintaining its technological leadership and the relevance of its space systems.

Major Findings

The leading points of improvement to come out of this document are that we, as a country, need to establish trusted and resilient supply chains both domestically and with allies.

Other important findings were the need to streamline bureaucratic processes to accelerate activities that delay licensing, improve access to financial tools to normalize space as a contributor to the economy and adopt ‘allied-by-design’ to improve interoperability with global partners.

Major Problems

One major concern ‘requiring urgent action’ that the report addressed was the normalization of continuing resolutions.

“The normalization of continuing resolutions in lieu of on-time budget appropriations year after year continues to challenge our nation’s ability to modernize and out-pace peer competitors across the dimensions of commercial, civil, and national security space,” the report states. “The nascent nature of the new space economy combined with the prevalence of both civil and defense market share provides little margin to assure the long-term viability of the space industrial base.”

Major Opportunities

In contrast to the major problems addressed in the report, the discussion of major opportunities also takes place. One such opportunity is the accelerated development of the high cadence, reusable, heavy lift launch capability.

According to the report, it “is paramount to achieving a sustainable path to economic prosperity and collective security. 2024 may prove to be the pivotal year in setting the conditions for either expanded U.S. market leadership or retreat in this very competitive global sector–and critical area to both the future space economy and national security.”

The U.S. needs to enact some change and add some leadership in the space industry, to not be left behind.

“Likewise, the opportunities provided by the new trilateral security partnership agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States (AUKUS) and four similar bilateral agreements with other partners must be acted upon to establish the beginning of a global network of spaceports that assure space launch resiliency and broader access to the new space economy,” the reports continues.

According to the DIU’s website, “the 2022 National Defense Strategy mandates that the U.S. Department of Defense be a ‘fast-follower’ where market forces are driving commercialization of military-relevant capabilities in critical technology areas such as space.”

The Big Reason for a Department of Space

“Rapidly prototyping commercial technology from ‘first movers’ who disrupt and re-define the state-of-the-art in technology is a key role of the Defense Innovation Unit; integrating those solutions with military space capabilities is a key function of the Air Force Research Laboratory; and fielding those capabilities to the warfighter through acquisition is a core mission of the United States Space Force.

“The rate of change in new technology is so steep today – especially in space – that the effective orchestration of defense innovation across the department became a high priority for Secretary Lloyd Austin who addressed the matter in an April 2023 memo realigning the Defense Innovation Unit as a direct report to the Secretary of Defense,” the DIU reported in a recent release.

State of the Space Industrial Base Report 2023 can be downloaded here.

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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.