COLORADO SPRINGS – An Oklahoma congressman is putting forward legislation that would reassign the duty of tracking space debris, as well as spur the integration of military space efforts and advocate for a new, smaller military launch vehicle, among other broad space policy changes.

Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine hopes to use this bill to build consensus around issues that could feed into a number of other bills – defense authorization, NASA reauthorization or FAA reauthorization — before the year is out.

One of the big challenges in space is that it is increasingly congested, contested and competitive, Bridenstine said. He references the Kessler syndrome – the idea that the world will create more orbital debris even if it doesn’t launch more objects into space. But launches are not slowing. Last year, countries around the world launched vehicles into space 86 times; 22 of those were for commercial purposes. The prior year there were 92 launches – 23 of which were commercial, according to the FAA’s Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation.

Future plans indicate growth. SpaceX and OneWeb are planning massive small satellite constellations. “There’s going to be a ton of traffic,” Bridenstine says. “We could put ourselves in a position where we deny ourselves access to orbit.”

The U.S. Defense Department already tracks tens of thousands of items in space and currently provides space situational awareness for its own use, for other U.S. government agencies, and for foreign governments and commercial space enterprises.

“It’s because they’re the only ones who have the capability of doing it,” Bridenstine, who spoke April 12 at the annual Space Symposium here, told Aviation Week. “They provide it free of charge to the world.”

The Pentagon, he said, should be focused on the dazzling, jamming and spoofing threats facing military space assets – rather than providing space traffic control for the entire world.

Bridenstine’s bill would transfer space situational awareness from the Defense Department to a civilian agency such as the FAA or a commercial operator. But he is careful to point out that the Pentagon will remain responsible for protecting U.S. military space assets and therefore continue to be involved with space situational awareness.

Another important aspect of Bridenstine’s proposal is to pursue what he calls a “venture-class” launch program, which would provide more options for placing smaller satellites into the correct orbit, and limit reliance on heavier vehicles such as the Atlas V. That doesn’t mean the U.S. would abandon the ability to launch heavy payloads, he says. “But we’re going to need additional capabilities with a venture-class program,” he says.

Bridenstine, a former Navy Reserve pilot elected in 2012, is also trying to provide some oversight of Pentagon space programs. That includes making sure that Pathfinder programs for the purchase of commercial satellite communications are funded both for the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.

According to Bridenstine, the challenge is that the Pentagon buys bandwidth on a commercial satellite using one-year leases – the most inefficient way. Rather than a one-year lease for a certain region of the word, Bridenstine suggests it would be better to buy a transponder or multiple transponders, and enable portable bandwidth to be provided at the right place and time.

Bridenstine also is trying to put teeth in a recommendation often made before by Congress – for the Pentagon to streamline its enterprise ground architecture. For example, he would streamline software training for programs such as the Space Based Infrared System and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. The idea is to require alignment of different segments of space on the ground. The Pentagon must certify it has harmonized systems, or they will not receive funding.

“This will be the first time there is a forcing function,” he says.