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US Space Force working to lower programme secrecy levels

A USSF radome receives data from satellites at Kaena Point Space Force Station, Hawaii, in September 2022. Lowering classification levels of space-based assets and space-gathered data is intended to allow greater sharing with allied countries, effectively increasing USSF's influence over the space environment. (US Space Force)

The US Space Force (USSF) is working to lower secrecy around its highly classified programmes, two service officials said at separate events on 21 May.

Most USSF assets on orbit are classified under Special Access Program (SAP) restrictions, based on a policy written in 2004, said Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the air force for Space Acquisition and Integration, during testimony before the US Senate on 21 May.

SAPs are among the most highly classified secrets in the US government. Access to SAP-classified information is determined on a case-by-case basis and is not often shared with allies and close partners.

The policy classifying most USSF assets as SAPS was rewritten in December 2023 by then assistant secretary of defence for Space Policy John Plumb, said Calvelli, allowing USSF to lower classification levels of SAP programmes as necessary.

“We have a team in place that has put together a [declassification] plan and strategy,” Calvelli told legislators. “Instead of doing it programme by programme, we're doing it all at once, so we're doing one entire strategy up front.”

“We'll have it in place this fall to actually remove the vast majority of our space programmes and reclassify them into top secret and secret,” Calvelli continued. “They won't become unclassified but they'll become secret and [top secret], which will allow a lot more sharing as well as the ability to get rid of all those stovepipes.”

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