Buy Before Build: SSC’s Commercial Space Office seeks to disrupt business as usual | Space

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With a $15 billion acquisition budget, Space Systems Command is one of the nation’s dominant military space customers. Housed at Los Angeles Air Force Base like its predecessor the Space and Missile Systems Center, SSC is known for missile-warning satellites and nuclear-survivable communications.

While much of that hardware is acquired through the traditional defense contracting process, SSC leaders adopted a new mantra a couple of years ago, “Exploit what we have, buy what we can and build only what we must.”

SSC’s Commercial Space Office, known as COMSO, was established in 2023 to help implement the strategy. COMSO Senior Materiel Leader Col. Richard Kniseley and Deputy Director Jeremy Leader oversee a 90-person staff that directs more than $1 billion annually toward commercial products and services for military operations.

Col. Richard Kniseley, COMSO senior materiel leader. Credit: U.S. Space Force.

Five offices fall under COMSO: SpaceWERX, the Space Force’s innovation arm; SSC’s Front Door, the point of contact for commercial firms; the Commercial Satellite Communications Office; Commercial Services Integration; and contracting.

SpaceNews caught up with Kniseley, a former U.S. Air Force space officer and procurement executive, and Leader, a U.S. Air Force reserve officer, engineer and program manager, to discuss the “buy before build” philosophy.

I want to better understand, “Exploit what we have, buy what we can and only build what we must.” What does it mean?

Kniseley: Our history of creating space systems goes back to the Western Development Division in the 1950s. For a great amount of time, we were the predominant force in space. Now, a pacing challenge or a threat has made us evolve how we do space acquisitions and how we get after the threat.

Exploiting what we have is taking a capability that’s already on orbit and utilizing it in a different way. One great example is our Space-Based Infrared…

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