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Companies knock, but Space Force acquisition portal ‘Front Door’ remains closed

Space Systems Command Executive Director Joy White, right, speaks with Lt. Gen. John Thompson at Los Angeles Air Force Base, then-SSC head, on Aug. 21, 2019. (via DVIDS)

WASHINGTON: Space Force’s acquisitions command, Space Systems Command, since February has been touting plans for a new one-stop-shop website for interested vendors, called the SSC Front Door, as part of an overarching reorganization designed to speed development and procurement.

But for the moment, that vaunted Front Door remains essentially closed — a static website outlining future plans, with an email address for queries. A top official said today updates are in the works.

Besides providing basic information about upcoming industry days designed to explain Space Force programmatic requirements and the command’s new pre-program “reverse industry” days, the Front Door also is supposed to connect firms, especially those new to the Pentagon’s space acquisition labyrinth, with a “sherpa” to guide them to the right office and right contracting processes.

Indeed, in recent weeks, company representatives routinely have been referred to that site to obtain information about SSC’s next “reverse industry” day on the topic of space domain awareness (SDA), including in the vast cislunar region between the Earth’s outer orbit and the Moon. The event is meant to provide an opportunity for them to show off their wares and feed into future requirements. But following those directions to the static site has left some frustrated, according to a number of industry sources who have contacted Breaking Defense seeking information about the event and/or an SSC point of contact.

“As far as I can tell, the ‘SSC Front Door’ is not a real thing yet,” one industry source said. “I emailed that address, and I first got an auto response that said they are still working on getting the Front Door set up and it may take a few days to receive a response. Then when I got a response from someone, they directed me to fill out a form that is not yet available on their website and to consult a list of upcoming events, which is also not yet available on the website. But they said both the form and the event listing would be available at some unspecified time in the future — so here’s hoping!”

Joy White, SSC executive director, today admitted that the Front Door is “still in its infancy,” and in essence asked industry to bear with the command as it stands the initiative up.

SSC Graphic showing front door

Space Systems Command map of the space acquisition universe.

“We’re working to add a lot more capability to the front door in the coming weeks, so I asked you to continue to return to that page,” she told a webinar sponsored by the National Security Space Association (NSSA). “We’re still manning up that office, and we’re still building up that capability. So my guess is right now you’re probably seeing a few days before you get engagement.”

White added that if information isn’t yet available via the Front Door about the SDA reverse industry day, which she said would be held July 28, it should be posted on the website within the next few days.

To be fair, SSC’s plans for the Front Door are ambitious and when realized should greatly ease communications with industry.

“We’re seeking to establish a two-step process to engage with industry. First, we’ve got an engagement function performed by a strategic assessment cell, and that cell will engage with industry by performing a quick scan of incoming technology for vectoring to potential SSC opportunities,” White explained. That cell also will “actively keeping abreast of the continuing state of commercial technology” and advise SSC program executive officers and program managers, as well as “actively connecting program offices with promising industry technology.”

In addition, she said, the Front Door staff will conduct “a due diligence assessment process where they’re going to look at business viability, technical feasibility and operational utility,” in consultation with experts from across the Space Force and at Air Force Research Laboratory. That vetting process is designed “to ensure that capabilities that we’re investing in or we’re looking at bringing on board can be fully integrated.”

As for reach back to industry, White said, the end goal of the portal is to emulate the live chat processes ubiquitous on retail websites.

“That’s my vision for SSC front door is that when you’re hooked in, you’re getting somebody immediately responding to you. So that’s the long term goal,” she said.

Asked for comment, SSC was unable to provide by press time an estimated date for when the full Front Door website is expected to be up and running.

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