A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Department of Defense (DoD) needs to work on how it evaluates data from commercial services when it involves tracking satellites in orbit.

The report details the need for the department to focus on its Space Situational Awareness (SSA) data – which is critical to being able to know what objects are to be found in the spectrum of contested areas of space.

“Space Force has some efforts underway to use commercial SSA data. However, it has not comprehensively evaluated the range of data available to help meet SSA mission needs,” GAO said.

The need for more commercial SSA data comes as nations like China and Russia are “[developing] and demonstrated capabilities designed to contest or deny U.S. access to, and operations in, space,” the watchdog agency said.

Part of the dilemma that DoD is facing is how “Space Force’s evaluation and acquisition of licenses to access, use, and potentially share commercial SSA data have been limited to a few studies and training events,” GAO said.

Other issues flagged in the report include how the department has not been utilizing its cloud-based Space Force’s Unified Data Library (UDL) – which is a repository of all commercial SSA data – on a consistent basis.

“Staff who monitor objects in space are not using it in daily SSA operations because it is not integrated into their operational systems,” GAO said.

The report concludes with two important recommendations – DoD’s Space Force service branch needs to regularly identify and evaluate its commercial SSA data to understand its own needs; and it needs to create a plan to determine how to use the UDL with its SSA systems. DoD concurred with both recommendations.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.