WASHINGTON — The U.S. military and intelligence communities are moving ahead with the procurement of a pair of commercial-class imaging satellites following an agreement between the two camps on the division of labor, funding and management responsibilities.

A memorandum of agreement signed Sept. 8 by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell signals the resolution of earlier disagreements over plans for the Broad Area Space-based Imagery Collector, or BASIC program.

The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) will procure the BASIC satellites, launchers and command and control systems using military intelligence program funding, according to the memo, a copy of which was provided to Space News. However, the Pentagon will have primacy in making key acquisition decisions for the program’s space segment, said Alden Munson, deputy director of national intelligence for acquisition.

The U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, meanwhile, will procure the satellite tasking and data processing, exploitation and dissemination system using national intelligence program funds, the memo says. The memo also assigned that agency the responsibility for integrating BASIC into the so-called National System for Geospatial Intelligence, a planned standards-based architecture for handling data from a variety of collection platforms.

Differences over the BASIC program surfaced in an Aug. 15 memo from John Young, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, who voiced disagreement with an earlier draft memo on the program that had been circulated by McConnell’s office. Young’s memo was obtained and reported by a number of media outlets; the memo to which he was responding is classified.

One of the issues raised by Young concerned milestone decision authority – the authority to decide when a program is ready to move from one acquisition phase to the next – for BASIC. Young said that authority should be exercised by his office. “I non-concur on splitting the acquisition milestone decision authority,” he wrote.

In a Sept. 10 interview, Munson said Young will have milestone decision authority for the BASIC space segment, with the intelligence community acting in an advisory capacity. Munson said he and Young will share milestone decision authority for the tasking, processing, exploitation and dissemination system.

Michael Birmingham, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the Gates-McConnell memo was signed during one of the periodic meetings of the Joint Intelligence Community Council and that the agreement had been hammered out beforehand at lower levels of the two bureaucracies.
noted that BASIC, including the ground and space segments, is funded by both the military and national intelligence program budgets. The memorandum of agreement was therefore necessary for the program to move forward, as is the case with all jointly funded efforts “where the program will have significant impacts on other collection capabilities, architectures and future acquisition strategies,” he said.

Space News correspondent Jeremy Singer contributed to this story from