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OSD Rewriting Space Acquisition Rules

A comprehensive rewrite of OSD's space acquisition rules is under way, sort of a parallel effort to the recent rewrite of the standard 5000 series that guides major weapons procurement.

Space acquisition, so synonymous with cost and schedule overrurns that it's now difficult to find a space program that has not sparked a Nunn-McCurdy breach, has been the subject of at least half-a-dozen serious efforts at reform over the last five years and none seem to have really taken hold.

Several space acquisition experts I spoke with say they welcome the effort but wonder just how much effect it will have in improving actual program implementation. They point to the tinkering and rebuilding of the 5000 series that has gone on since the Clinton administration and acquisition costs have done nothing but soared.

Part of the problem is that much space acquisition is split between the Defense Department and the intelligence community. Deciding whose procurement rules apply can be difficult although a memo signed by former DNI McConnell and DefSec Gates two years ago appeared to give the DNI control over any program that used more than 50 percent of intelligence community money. Under the old regime, if a program contained even $1 of DoD money it was run by the Pentagon.

Conventional Pentagon acquisition programs got their own reforms approved in December. Those new rules require each program to go through a major review to ensure it is based on approved requirements and a rigorous assessment of alternatives and institutionalize one of outgoing ATL head John Young's favorite ideas, requiring development of system or key subsystems. Since John Young began the rewrite of the new space rules it isn't unreasonable to expect some of these features to be included in the new rules.

A Pentagon official believes the new rules may help stabilize the tottering ship of space acquisition. A congressional aide, told of the effort, was skeptical but hopeful. "They've tried to do this before and it doesn't seem to have improved things much. But anything that might help improve things can't be ignored," the aide said.

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