WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department must send Congress a flurry of reports in March and April to outline Pentagon management of space personnel careers; command and control systems; plans to use commercial satellites; and cooperation with NASA.
Congress mandated the assortment of reports in the 2005 Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law on Oct. 28.
The Pentagon submitted a plan to Congress last year for managing the careers of space personnel, also known as the space cadre. Senior officers from each of the military services’ space organizations testified before the House Armed Services Committee on July 22 regarding their plans. Congressional aides said that they still are not satisfied that the military is on the right track, and questioned whether the space cadre plans had sufficiently addressed the roles of industry and academia in developing qualified space personnel. The aides also indicated that they would like to see a detailed Pentagon strategy for implementing its space cadre concepts.
The authorization act requires the secretary of defense to submit an interim report by March 15 that will address these concerns, with a final report to follow as the Pentagon puts together its 2007 budget submission.
Also due by March 15 is a report from the secretary of defense on the Pentagon’s effort to develop battle management systems. The Pentagon has struggled to develop command and control systems that can operate in concert with systems used by each of the military services and allies.
In the report accompanying the authorization act, Congress indicated that the Pentagon is planning to develop a variety of systems intended to provide “operating pictures” of assets used by military commanders ranging from satellites to ships. The military is currently developing a Single Integrated Space Picture, Single Integrated Air Picture, Single Integrated Ground Picture, Single Integrated Maritime Picture and Special Operations Forces Picture.
Without sufficient oversight and an effort to coordinate those pictures, the military may waste money creating a variety of redundant systems that do not tie into one another, Congress said in the report accompanying the authorization act.
The Pentagon also must provide a report by March 15 regarding cooperative work with NASA. Congressional aides said they generally have been disappointed with the level of cooperation between the two agencies on space work in recent years, particularly in the area of hypersonic propulsion. The report must describe the Pentagon’s plans to develop hypersonic technology to support space launch and quick global strike missions. Congress expects the report to discuss how NASA efforts including the X-43 flights can assist the Defense Department in those missions.
NASA conducted its third X-43 flight test in November, but canceled a follow-on program in favor of funding the agency’s space exploration initiative. The final X-43 flew at 11,265 kilometers per hour at an altitude of 33,500 meters before gliding into the Pacific Ocean.
The report also must identify NASA wind tunnels and other aeronautics research and development facilities that are vital for the development of military systems. A fourth report, reviewing the Pentagon’s commercial satellite communications procurement strategy, is due by April 30.
That report must address how the Pentagon may implement recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office in December 2003 in its report entitled “Satellite Communications: Strategic Approach needed for [Defense Department]’s Procurement of Commercial Satellite Bandwidth.”
The Government Accountability Office audit echoed criticisms from industry officials that the Pentagon buys commercial satellite communications capacity unwisely. The military is chastised for preferring short-term deals that are less cost-effective than long-term leases. Short-term purchases also make it more difficult for the Pentagon and its commercial suppliers to assure long-term communications capacity for military customers.
The Pentagon has recently made progress in addressing these concerns, according to David Cavossa, executive director of the Satellite Industry Association here.
Cavossa pointed to a Dec. 14 memo from Linton Wells, acting assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, that calls on the military to adopt a more strategic approach to its commercial bandwidth purchases. That memo may serve as a preview of the report to Congress, Cavossa said.
The memo directs military leaders to incorporate commercial services into their communications architecture planning, and encourages the signing of longer-term deals.
“That’s what we have been talking about,” Cavossa said. “They seem to be headed in the right direction.”