WASHINGTON — The head of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s space initiatives is taking a new job with the Space Force where he’ll help design the service’s architecture at the Pentagon.
In July, Col. Eric Felt will wrap up four years as the director of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, heading to the Pentagon to serve as the new deputy executive director of the service’s Space Architecture, Science and Technology Directorate, according to an AFRL press release.
In his new position, Felt will play an important role in establishing the Space Force’s new acquisitions office. When Congress established the Space Force in 2019, it created a new assistant secretary of the Air Force position to lead space acquisitions, with the idea that an acquisitions executive focused on space systems could address the military’s long-running challenges with delays and cost-overruns in that area. Following complaints from legislators that the position was still unfilled in May 2021, the Biden Administration nominated former principal deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office Frank Calvelli, who is now awaiting a Senate confirmation hearing. In the interim, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall announced in August the service would reorganize its space procurement office, establishing the space-focused acquisitions and integration organization within the Air Force, with major decisions still going through the acting assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisitions until the space acquisitions executive was approved by the Senate.
As the deputy director of the Space Force’s architecture and science and technology organization, Felt will play a key role in the service’s architecture design work and in communicating the service’s acquisitions priorities and needs to Congress.
In his role at AFRL, Felt and his team of 1,080 military, civilian and contracted personnel, support the Space Force in its missile warning, position navigation and timing, space situational awareness, communications and space control missions. The directorate is considered a center of excellence for space research, development and demonstration. Among the programs Felt is in charge of is Navigation Technology Satellite-3, an AFRL Vanguard effort that will demonstrate new position, navigation and timing capabilities that may be incorporated on future GPS satellites.
Felt also oversaw a rapid build-up in space-related infrastructure at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, the home of the Space Vehicles Directorate and the Space Rapid Capabilities Office. In the last two years, AFRL has opened or begun construction on a $4 million Deployable Structures Laboratory, a $3.5 million Skywave Technology Laboratory, and a $12.8 million Space Warfighting Operations Research and Development Lab. The Space Vehicles Directorate also has dedicated space within the $6 million Wargaming and Advanced Research Simulation (WARS) Laboratory.
Col. Jeremy Raley, who now works in the Space Rapid Capabilities Office, will take over Felt’s position at the Space Vehicles Directorate.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.