WASHINGTON — Although there have been dire warnings of late about the state of U.S. national security space, some experts said they have yet to see evidence that President-elect BarackObama will give this area much initial emphasis, especially given the myriad challenges that await his administration.
predecessor, President George W. Bush, nominated Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary soon after being elected, immediately raising expectations that military space would be a point of emphasis in that administration. Rumsfeld, after all, chaired an expert panel that at the time was working on a report calling for major changes in the
national security space management structure.
, who has yet to announce his selection for defense secretary, has yet to raise similar expectations.
“It’s going to be a while before the Obama team gets to space issues, because frankly they’re just not on the front burner,” said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the Arlington, Va.-based Lexington Institute. “I think eventually when the new administration gets in, the space industry will be fairly pleased. It’s just going to take a while.”
In a space policy position paper released in August, Obama staked out positions against weapons in space and in support of rules of the road governing the activities of space-faring nations. The Bush administration never embraced the rules of the road concept and drew criticism from arms control advocates mistrustful of its intentions regarding space weaponry.
“It was ideologically-based and short-sighted,” Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control advocate at the New America Foundation said. “You really need cooperation to manage traffic and debris in space, and this administration was so worried about the possible harm from arms control agreements they basically ignored all the good that could come from cooperating with other countries.
“I think we will see a more cooperative approach to use more treaties and agreements under [the Obama administration]. But we don’t even know who the relevant people will be, so it’s a little hard to guess. “Military space advocates, meanwhile, are hoping the Obama administration will take heed of a pair of reports recommending sweeping changes in the way the government develops and procures military space systems.
One report, prepared by a panel of military and space industry professionals and named for retiring U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.), who called for it, was released in August. It warned that the
is in danger of losing its pre-eminence in space due to lack of leadership, poor acquisition processes and failure to address industrial-base issues like export regulations. The Allard Commission report recommended putting a single person in charge of a new organization to procure and operate all national security space programs, regardless of function or classification.
That was followed in October by a report prepared by the House Intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence. That study drew similar conclusions as the Allard Commission report, although it was far less prescriptive in its recommendations.
Military and industrial sources said the Allard Commission’s report has been given to members of the Obama transition team, but there have been no indications they plan to act on it.