Faster and fully reusable rockets, check. Satellite designs that really do leverage Moore’s Law, check. Ground and space data analytics that rest on the brilliance of the Silicon Valley tech revolution, check. Everything technical seems to be falling into place nicely for the United States to win the second Space Race – but we are not. The country’s National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) just ran the numbers, and we are behind. Not just behind superpowers like China, but even smaller nations like Finland . America’s prizefighters who won the championship rounds of the last space race are becoming obsolete and are no longer competitive internationally.
So, where are we dropping the ball? Ironically, it’s not that we aren’t innovating actual space technology or spending enough money. The real issue here is that current space acquisition policy has fallen behind what’s needed for America to win again. Perhaps the most impactful acquisition improvements since the 1980’s, Frank Kendall’s iconic 10 principles of Better Buying Power , clearly emphasized this idea, stating specifically in his seventh principle that “competition and the threat of competition provide the most effective incentive.” We must reimagine our aging defense business policies by leading our industries, advisors, and universities to place competition as our top priority.