DOD space efforts must go lean in tight fiscal times

Top DOD space acquisition official outlines picture of constrained environment

The use of satellite technology in Defense Department operations is critical, but the tightening budget atmosphere means that tough choices must be made regarding future investments, according to one top DOD official.

“We’re at the front end of a budgeting environment that’s going to present economic challenges for the foreseeable future; this is a constrained environment,” said Gil Klinger, DOD deputy assistant secretary of defense for space and intelligence. “Overall, we’re not going into an environment with a lot of discretionary funding for space. That’s the reality of the choices in front of Congress, DOD and President Obama.” Klinger spoke March 15 at the Satellite 2011 conference in Washington, D.C.

Klinger, whose position falls within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD/AT&L) , stressed that the lack of funding doesn’t reflect a change in the importance of DOD assets in space.

“The risks haven’t changed markedly, but perceptions of the [space] business have changed,” he noted. “Space capabilities are inextricably bound in the fabric of U.S. and allied security; this is vital to national and economic security. Space capabilities are the dial tone of our national security.”

Klinger made one thing very clear: More oversight and one-size-fits-all solutions will not be the answer to any problems his sector is facing.

“Adding more layers of oversight is the natural reaction of any large bureaucracy. … The problem is that it rarely adds any value, no matter how well-intentioned,” he said. “It hasn’t worked for us. We need to think differently when problems arise.”

What DOD space operations do need are lean, tailored solutions that program managers, industry partners and USD/AT&L 's acquisition chief, can use to meet their goals, Klinger said.

He also called for processes better tailored to the maturity and readiness of existing technology, and closer collaboration between the acquisition and requirements communities.

Klinger also acknowledged other challenges faced by the DOD space sector, including a changing educational environment that shifts the space engineering workforce.

“Young engineers have an unprecedented range of choices … and that means it will be harder to attract the best and brightest,” he said. “This is a team sport. We have to roll up our sleeves and grind it out.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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