Will the Under Secretary of the Air Force Still Be DOD Executive Agent for Space?

Will the Under Secretary of the Air Force Still Be DOD Executive Agent for Space?

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC’s) confirmation hearing for Erin Conaton to be the new Under Secretary of the Air Force opened with an intriguing comment from committee chair Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). He noted that previously the Under Secretary was also designated as DOD’s Executive Agent for Space, but “we do not know yet if Ms. Conaton will exercise this responsibility.”

Ms. Conaton’s written answers to questions asked in advance and posted on SASC’s website note that the Under Secretary serves as the Chief Management Officer of the Air Force, and “if designated by the Secretary of the Air Force, as the Department of Defense Executive Agent for Space.” She further states:

“Currently the organization and management of space issues within the Air Force headquarters is under internal review, as well as through the Quadrennial Defense Review and Space Posture Review processes. These reviews and studies will inform and assist the Air Force in developing the way ahead, to include lines of authority and organizational structures. If confirmed, I would expect to be a major participant in these ongoing processes and would look forward to working with this Committee to understand any new organizational construct or responsibilities that result from these reviews.”

She was asked a number of questions in advance about what she would do if those responsibilities were assigned to her. She was clear that she knows she has much to learn about space programs, but she did say that she would —

  • work with other DOD officials to ensure space acquisition planning, programming and budgeting are synchronized to continue to deliver the best space capability to the warfighter, and
  • work with others in DOD to shape space policy to maintain continuity of existing space services while improving how the department acquires new space systems.

Ms. Conaton has been serving as staff director of the House Armed Services Committee, which is sometimes at odds with its Senate counterpart, engendering some good natured teasing from Senators Levin and McCain about her nomination. It seemed clear, however, that they and other SASC members support her nomination and those of the other two nominees at the hearing. A webcast of the hearing is available on SASC’s website.

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