This piece originally appeared on The American Conservative.
Back in 2018, when the Space Force was being formed, I warned that the new service would likely seek exemptions from existing regulations governing acquisition, arguing that looser rules would be necessary to keep up with technological development. I hate to say that my warning was pretty prescient.
The newly created United States Space Force wasted little time in attempting to skirt the rules governing how it spends taxpayer money. The service submitted a report last week to Congress that requested the creation of an “Alternative Acquisition System for the U.S. Space Force,” justifying the proposal with lots of jargon: “The U.S. must maintain a strategic advantage in space through both a space-focused military service and a space-tailored acquisition system that rapidly leverages these new industry dynamics.” These policies will hinder Congress’s ability to conduct oversight and result in more money wasted on dubious systems.
In one of the proposed changes, Space Force leaders want to create budget lines for broad mission categories rather than allocated funding for specific programs. In practice, this would mean that instead of asking Congress for funding for a single communications satellite program, as is the current practice for virtually all acquisitions, the Space Force would have a block of money allocated for all communications programs. So Space Force bureaucrats would be able to shift money from one program to another without Congress’s approval.
The real reason the Space Force was created was to make it easier for contractors to sell things to the government. This acquisition program supports that effort.