— A new report that recommends combining the organizations responsible for unclassified and classified
military space assets likely will face opposition that could be strong enough to squash the idea, one of the report’s authors said Aug. 13 at the Space and Missile Defense Conference here.
The soon-to-be-released report by a congressionally mandated panel recommends the creation of a National Security Space Authority (NSSA), an organization that would have acquisition and requirements authority for both unclassified and classified national security space systems, said retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Edward Anderson, who served on the panel and is a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton.
The head of the NSSA would be dual-hatted as an undersecretary of Defense for space and a deputy director of national intelligence for space, and would lead a new organization, the National Security Space Organization, responsible for the acquisition and operation of all
military and intelligence space assets.
The division of responsibility for space systems development and operation has been a point of contention between the military and intelligence communities for decades. At the beginning of this decade, Peter B. Teets had a dual-hatted job as deputy secretary of the U.S. Air Force. In that position he was both the Air Force’s executive agent for space and the director of the the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
Unclassified military space systems currently are acquired by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and operated by Air Force Space Command; classified space systems currently are acquired and operated by the NRO. Each organization today has its own director.
The report has its roots in language U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) added to the 2007 Defense Authorization bill calling for the creation of a blue-chip panel to assess the organization and management of U.S. national security space. The panel was chaired by A. Thomas Young, retired executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Corp., and included Anderson, retired Navy Vice Adm. Lyle Bien, retired Air Force Gen. Ron Fogleman, former National Reconnaissance Office Director Keith Hall, retired Air Force Gen. Lester Lyles and former Air Force Secretary Hans Mark. An executive summary of “Leadership, Organization and Management for National Security Space” was handed out at the conference.
The panel found national security space to be in need of drastic changes to prevent a further decline of the
‘ pre-eminence in space. Among the greatest concerns is the lack of a true authority for military and intelligence space assets, and thus the creation of the NSSA is the report’s most important recommendation, Anderson said.
“No one’s in charge, so everyone thinks they’re in charge,”
said. “Space Radar is a prime example of that. The intelligence and military space communities could not come to an agreement, so nothing ever got done.”
Top Pentagon and
intelligence officials, including the deputy secretary of Defense, were briefed on the report in late July,
said. The full report will be released later this month.
The report also calls for the
to establish and execute a national space strategy that would assure
space pre-eminence, integrate all of the various participants, and establish lines of priority and accountability. To execute this strategy, the
should re-establish the National Space Council to be led by the national security advisor, the report said.
The panel’s recommendations were the result of a litany of concerns related to national security space that are occurring at a time while the United States is more dependent on space assets than ever before, Anderson said. The panel cited a growing threat of a so-called “Space Pearl Harbor,” evidenced by the January 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test and the ever-increasing cyber attacks the Pentagon now is facing, he said.
Continued delays, cost overruns and failures of important national security space systems, including Space Radar, the Transformational Satellite communications system, the Future Imagery Architecture and the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, have contributed to suboptimal space capabilities in the near future, he said.
Other concerns cited in the report are the emergence of other nations as major space powers, the continued consolidation of the U.S. space industrial base, the lessened competitiveness in the world market for U.S. companies as a result of the current export control regime and the inability of industry and government to attract and retain the nation’s best young people to the field.
Anderson said the report’s recommendations would be met by strong opposition and acknowledged how disruptive and difficult this reorganization would be, saying there is a good chance that recommending such radical changes would result in no change at all. He also acknowledged it is counter-cultural for a panel of retired top service officials to want to give more power to the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
“Bold steps were required to fix these problems,”
said. “We felt as if this was the only way to fix what’s wrong. We didn’t see any other alternatives.”
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. James Armor, former director of the National Security Space Office and president of the Armor Group, gave input to the panel and praised the report for focusing on how important space has become to the
military and the nation’s national security and economy. He agreed with the report’s recommendations, but said it left out many of the details that will be needed to implement them.
The timing of the report’s release is not optimal, Armor said. To prevent the recommendations from being lost in the transition to a new presidential administration, he requested the panel reconvene next year to make sure the administration understands the importance of making changes.
These recommendations would represent a tremendous change for the space domain, giving it a degree of autonomy and priority it has not had until now, Armor said.
“This study gets us on that road so that the space domain can flourish. It’s a little bit stagnant right now. [Without change], I’m afraid the
will lose its pre-eminence in space, and that would be a terrible thing.”
Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Lexington Institute in
, said the consolidation of national security space is long overdue.
“We use the same skills, the same technology and the same funding in a fragmented system that produces subpar results,” Thompson said. “Merging SMC and NRO is one way we can get greater efficiency out of the vulcanized system. The only problem I see is reconnaissance programs are so highly classified it will require some sort of layered access system within the new organization.”
The debate about whether to have one organization or two has been going on for 20 years, and during that time the United States’ ability to pay for two separate areas has declined, Thompson said. “The report reflects the growing consensus and its findings are not going to be forgotten in the next administration. Congress will probably put wording in the 2009 appropriations bill that directs the next administration to begin the consolidation.”