The Pentagon should consider better integrating its classified and unclassified space efforts by again

having a single official in charge of both categories

, according to two prominent retired senior military space officials.

The positions of director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and undersecretary of the Air Force are both vacant at present. That could make it just the right

time to resurrect

the closer organizational relationship the two organizations had

between late 2001 and early 2005,

according to Peter B. Teets, who served as undersecretary of the Air Force and NRO director during that period.

“I think it would be a mistake to pass up an opportunity to bring them back together,” Teets said in a recent interview.

Lance W. Lord, a retired general who served as commander of Air Force Space Command for four years beginning in April 2002, said in a recent interview that the Pentagon is relatively well positioned for success in the space arena from a leadership perspective for the near future.

Lord noted that the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is now Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who was an advocate for space programs as commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and that Cartwright’s replacement in Omaha is Gen. Kevin Chilton, who had replaced Lord as commander of Air Force Space Command. Lord also noted that Chilton’s replacement at Space Command will be Lt. Gen. Robert Kehler, who has a long history of work in the space arena.

However, without a single official in charge of space work in the Air Force and at the NRO, the task of coordinating those efforts becomes much harder, Lord said.

The Pentagon combined

the positions of Air Force undersecretary and NRO director in 2001 in line with the

recommendations of a panel of military experts who said it would elevate

the priority of military space work inside the Pentagon. That expert panel, the Commission on the Organization of National Security Space, was headed by Donald Rumsfeld prior to his selection to serve as secretary of defense.

However, the Pentagon elected to split those same two positions in 2005 shortly after Teets retired. Teets said


strongly recommended to Rumsfeld that the positions be kept together as the most efficient way to manage national security space work, but that his advice was not heeded.

Lord and Teets both conceded that while the Pentagon has the unique opportunity with the current

vacancies in the NRO director and Air Force undersecretary slots,

finding a replacement to do both jobs will not be easy.

Not many people have the background that would enable them to handle the responsibilities of the two offices, Teets said. Lord noted that many potential candidates may be reticent to take a senior leadership post with a change in presidential administrations coming after the 2008 elections.

Without a single official overseeing classified and unclassified space work, the Pentagon might

want to consider removing space acquisition from the Air Force undersecretary’s list of responsibilities, Chilton said during an Aug. 14 speech at the 10th Annual Space and Missile Defense Conference and Exhibition in Huntsville, Ala.

Chilton noted that giving space acquisition responsibilities to the Air Force undersecretary led the service to separate the space offices from the service’s

traditional acquisition chain. While the benefits of having a single official manage black and white space accounts might

have made this worthwhile, space advocacy

is often better served by having space as an integrated part of Air Force

planning and operations, Chilton said.

Chilton said

a positive step toward bringing space and air closer together and

improving space advocacy occurred Aug. 1

when the service integrated personnel from an office created originally as a space shop (

the directorate of space operations and integration

later renamed

directorate of strategic security) into the office of the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements.

Air Force Maj. Monica Bland, a service spokeswoman,


the integration of the two

was part of a larger Air Force effort to prepare

for the future. The Air Force also has integrated

personnel from an office that handled cyberspace issues into other divisions of the office of the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, which is

known as A3/5.

The moves will help ensure that air, space and cyberspace issues are all treated equally in the service’s planning, requirements and operations processes, Bland said.

The space office, which was known as A3S, was created in 2000 in order to provide an emphasis for space capabilities at the strategic level, Bland said. The office later took on other issues including homeland defense, missile defense and counter-proliferation, she said.

“We take advantage of the strength and flexibility supplied by our nation’s space capabilities by integrating them across the full spectrum of operations, plans and requirements at the strategic level,” Bland said. “Integrating the A3S organization will also, by design, drive broader senior Air Force engagement in the space portfolio. Rather than a single senior space advocate (A3S), the space portfolio will have many senior advocates in A3/5, increasing the level of space knowledge and credibility among senior Air Force leadership.”

Bland did not rule out further mergers of space offices with air offices, but said that none are planned at the moment.

In an interview following his Aug. 14 speech in Huntsville, Chilton noted that Maj. Gen. Daniel Darnell has been selected for promotion to



with an assignment to run the A3/5 organization. Darnell, who currently serves as the Air Force legislative liaison, served as the director of the Space Warfare Center at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., from June 2003 to August 2005, which adds a senior leader to the Air Force staff with a solid grounding in both air and space issues, Chilton said.

The Air Force needs a certain degree of people who specialize in particular areas like space for their careers, said Chilton, who noted that he first worked at Space Command in 1998 as deputy director of operations, the command’s leadership was composed entirely of pilots. Chilton said that the command has taken a positive step in recent years by bringing in general officers who have had careers largely in the space arena, but that it needs to retain the ability to bring in people like Darnell who can gain valuable space experience prior to moving on to service-wide leadership positions.

“We have to be careful not to be so exclusive that we don’t continue to bring in expertise from the air domain, and share our expertise with the air domain, so we grow senior leaders within the Air Force that are comfortable in both domains, and some day are comfortable in three domains,” Chilton said, referring to cyberspace as the third domain.