DoD ‘completely rewrites’ classification policy for secret space programs

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Under the new approach, there must be a technical rationale for stamping a space program as special access, not simply because of a service policy decision, said DoD space policy czar John Plumb.

WASHINGTON — Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has signed off on a new classification policy for space programs that discourages the use of Special Access Program status (SAPs) that dramatically limits clearances to handful of US officials — in hopes of opening still-secret programs to more stakeholders, including US allies and industry partners, according to a senior official.

“What the classification memo does, generally, is it overwrites — it really completely rewrites — a legacy document that had its roots 20 years ago, and it’s just no longer applicable to the current environment that involves national security space,” DoD Assistant Secretary for Space Policy John Plumb told reporters today.

While the specifics of the policy, signed off by Hicks “at the end of 2023,” are themselves classified, Plumb explained that a key issue has been the overuse of SAPs that not only have limited the ability to share with allies and industry, but even among different organizations within the Defense Department.