The White House announced on December 15 that President Biden has nominated Frank Calvelli to serve as the Assistant Secretary in charge of Air Force for Space Acquisition. Calvelli spent three decades at National Reconnaissance Office before joining Booz Allen Hamilton in September to manage the firm’s space and intelligence initiatives.
He was the NRO’s principal deputy director from July 2012 until October 2020, supervising space programs like satellite as well as ground system acquisitions, satellite operations, and systems engineering. Calvelli is going to become the very first-ever chief procurement executive in control of military space programs if he is confirmed by the Senate, a position specified by Congress in 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Filling this post, according to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, is a major priority. As the Space Force strives to update its satellites and acquire sophisticated technology needed to contend with China and Russia, having a senior commander in charge of space procurement is critical, according to Kendall. The new assistant secretary’s main responsibility will be to oversee the reform of Space Force procurement organization.
Since the Space Force’s inception two years ago, lawmakers have chastised it for its tardy acquisition plans and failure to integrate breakthrough commercial technologies into military initiatives. The Space Force has frequently compared adversely to the NRO, which used a more streamlined approach, during debates on Capitol Hill concerning satellite procurements.
The head of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), argued for a distinct space service “because the Air Force was disregarding its space mission and not doing as effectively as the NRO.” Calvelli is the second former NRO officer to be selected to a major procurement position in the Space Force. In July, Biden proposed Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, the ex-deputy director of the NRO, to lead the Space Force’s Space Systems Command.
Calvelli specialized in cybersecurity for space systems while at Booz Allen. He told SpaceNews that the Department of Defense and the intelligence community will increasingly rely on private space equipment and that the government must ensure that hybrid networks, which link military and commercial satellites, are adequately protected against cyber threats.
“When it relates to space protection and the requirement to integrate data fast for speedy decision-making,” he said, “we need to conceive of all sections as an integrated architecture.”