Tuesday, January 26, 2021

SN Military Space | Biden's Buy American executive order impacts defense and space • Hyten wants DoD to buy more commercial space tech
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Tuesday, January 26, 2021


Today's brief

  • Biden orders government agencies to Buy American
  • Hyten wishes DoD bought more commercial space tech
  • The next ULA Atlas 5 launch will be Boeing's Starliner

President Joe Biden on Monday issued a Buy American executive order that toughens existing requirements for U.S. federal agencies to buy products and services from domestic suppliers. 

At a White House news conference Biden criticized the Trump administration for not enforcing Buy American rules and allowing billions of dollars worth of contracts to be awarded to foreign suppliers. "The previous administration didn't take this seriously," Biden said. "They promised Buy American and then issued waivers and found loopholes."

Biden's executive order would have the most impact on the Defense Department, the federal government's largest agency that issues about $380 billion a year worth of contracts. The order says any agency that wants to buy from foreign suppliers will have to provide detailed justification.

Jerry McGinn, executive director of the Center for Government Contracting in the School of Business at George Mason University, said this order came as no surprise. 

"This is something that Biden talked about during the campaign," said McGinn, a former Pentagon official in the office of industrial base policy. "He's putting a stronger focus on domestic manufacturing than the Trump administration."

What does this mean for defense technology and space? 

The Biden administration will need a plan to strengthen the domestic base in industries that develop and produce advanced technology like space, microelectronics, robotics, 5G communications, artificial intelligence — all sectors that rely on global supply chains, says McGinn. "We need to build more capacity."

The emphasis on domestic sourcing has implications for the space sector, experts said, because space is a growing industry that is projected to create jobs and fuel economic strength. 

"I think it would be fantastic if the Biden administration looked for ways to leverage the commercial space industry — and its supply chains for ancillary products and services — to secure and grow the U.S. economy as it rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic," said Bruce Cahan, a lecturer at Stanford University's Department of Management Science and Engineering.

Cahan is co-author of "U.S. Space Policies for the New Space Age: Competing on the Final Economic Frontier," a study endorsed by the U.S. Space Force, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Innovation Unit that advocates for a national effort to advance space technology and innovation.

"In so many ways the pandemic has shown that having U.S. suppliers and technologies available for existential missions for space up there can be of great and timely value down here on Earth, while creating new and good paying jobs for all Americans," Cahan told SpaceNews.

This is not an issue that DoD or NASA alone can address, he said. "A whole-of-government approach" is needed to identify needs and requirements for the industrial base in support of the national economy.

Hyten to DoD: Buy commercial space tech

Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been a longtime critic of how the Pentagon acquires technology, especially when it comes to space systems. 

On a National Security Space Association webcast on Friday, Hyten was asked why the Pentagon is not tapping all the innovation coming out of the commercial space industry. 

"That's been a frustrating question for me," Hyten said. There is cutting-edge technology "sitting right there, and the only people that are in the way of taking advantage of it are us."

DoD's partnership with the launch industry has been a huge success, he said, and it should be replicated in other sectors of the space industry like satellite manufacturing, remote sensing and space situational awareness, he said. "We should be partnered with everybody that's operating in space. If somebody wants to partner with us we should figure out how to come up with the resources and partner with them."

Partnering is not the same as subsidizing companies, he noted. "Space is still expensive, it doesn't matter who you are. If you can partner with others to share the cost, it's to everybody's benefit."

Hyten also spoke about the Space Force and why its supporters should not fear that President Biden will get rid of it.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived at the Pentagon on Friday shortly after being confirmed by the Senate in a 93-2 vote. He is greeted by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Credit: DoD


United Launch Alliance announced on Monday that the launch of the U.S. Space Force STP-3 mission on an Atlas 5 rocket scheduled for February has been delayed for further satellite evaluations. ULA's next launch is Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2, now planned for March 25 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Atlas 5 last flew Nov. 13 when it launched a National Reconnaissance Office mission.

Northrop Grumman and L3Harris were selected by the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency to each build a prototype sensor satellite capable of tracking hypersonic and ballistic missiles. The agency on Friday awarded Northrop Grumman a $155 million contract, while L3Harris received a $121 million contract. The satellites have to be completed by mid-2023. Raytheon and Leidos submitted bids but were not selected.

The Aerospace Corp., based in El Segundo, California, is expanding its operations to the United Kingdom. Aerospace UK will serve as a technical advisor to the UK Ministry of Defence. "Establishing Aerospace UK demonstrates Aerospace's commitment to advancing the global space community and stronger, deeper partnerships with U.S. allies," said Steve Isakowitz, Aerospace president and CEO. 

Virgin Orbit announced on Monday it has been selected by the Dutch space engineering company Innovative Solutions in Space to launch the Royal Netherlands Air Force's first satellite, a 6U cubesat called BRIK-II. The satellite will be used for communications experiments and to demonstrate capabilities for military operations. BRIK-II will fly sometime in 2021 as a rideshare payload on an upcoming LauncherOne mission. Credit: Virgin Orbit

SN Military.Space is published Tuesdays by SpaceNews Staff Writer Sandra Erwin and Editor-in-Chief Brian Berger.

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