by TSgt. Craig Martin
LOS ANGELES AFB, Calif. (AFNS)-- Consolidating program offices into one program office, acquisition reform, and integrating management teams between the military and contractors has streamlined the way the Air Force does business in space, according to the Air Force's top space programs acquisition officer.
Maj. Gen. Garry A. Schnelzer, who retires May 1 after serving five years as the program executive officer for the acquisition of space programs at the Pentagon, cited this consolidation and other processes as major steps in the use of space.
As an example, Schnelzer noted the combining of several military satellite communications programs at the Space and Missile Systems Center, headquartered at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. In the early-'90s, there were separate program offices for the Defense Satellite Communications System, a Milstar space segment program office, and a terminal program office at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
"What we saw in the early-'90s were hard looks in how we should manage our military satellite communications program," Schnelzer said. "We had a very difficult time. As a result of that, we consolidated everything into what we know today as the MILSATCOM (Military Satellite Commiunications) joint program office," he said.
With the consolidation, DSCS, AFSATCOM, Milstar space segment, the joint terminal program office in Crystal City, Va., the terminal program office at Hanscom, and all UHF, VHF and SHF terminal offices come under MILSATCOM, Schnelzer said.
"So when the MILSATCOM program office was established, we had for the first time the ability to address the total requirement, and the ability to describe, defend and manage the programs from a Washington perspective," Schnelzer said. "That's a tremendous advantage."
Acquisition reform also has been a significant change during Schnelzer's tenure.
Acquisition reform "appears to be more than just words today," he said. "That is exemplified by our recent Defense Acquisition Board Review of our space-based infrared program. That program office submitted a 34-page single acquisition management plan as the sole documentation for acquisition. That compares to literally thousands and thousands of pages that we had in previous plans."
Schnelzer said there are five lead programs for acquisition reform. Of those five, two are space-related:
-- Space Based Infrared System: a ballistic missile detection system that supports missile warning, missile defense, battlespace characterization and technical intelligence missions for the next 25 years.
-- Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle: a single family of launch vehicles designed to perform the medium- through heavy-lift missions now launched by Titan II, Delta, Atlas and Titan IV boosters.
Another major achievement during his tenure is integrated teams between the contractor and the government, Schnelzer said.
"We're working as a team today to provide for the natural management and execution of programs," he said. "In terms of streamlined acquisition in an integrated management approach, that has really been helped by the reduction in the budget. We've just had to be much more efficient."
As for the Air Force's future in space, the sky's the limit, the general said.
"Space is now an integral part of our thinking," Schnelzer said. "We don't see a decrease in space activity," as evident by 40 percent of the new programs being space programs, he said. "That's very symbolic."
The commercial use of space for communications has helped the military by keeping space more visible, he said.
In terms of military dependency of space, the Air Force has a special responsibility by being the executive service for space issues.
"If you look at all of our space programs, they're all joint," Schnelzer said. "If you look at Hanscom or Wright-Patterson, it would be a rarity to have a joint program, but that's the norm out here (at Los Angeles AFB) and we service the whole Department of Defense."
(Martin is assigned to Space and Missile Systems Center public affairs)