NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The United States must develop a satellite architecture for the future that accommodates separate satellites for military and intelligence purposes because the requirements of the two communities have diverged too far to be satisfied by single platforms intended to serve both, the head of Air Force Space Command said Oct. 30.

U.S. Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler said he nation’s overhead imagery architecture has historically been designed primarily for intelligence users, with military users being able to use the same data for strategic purposes. Today, satellites are used by the military through the entire chain of command and are an integral part of tactical warfare, Kehler said in remarks here at the GeoInt 2008 Symposium.

“Our reconnaissance satellites have been designed, built and operated to meet the requirements of both the national intelligence and the joint force commanders,” Kehler said. “I believe this approach is posing insurmountable problems, and those problems are going to get worse as we look to the future.

“That’s a bold statement. That’s a statement that challenges some of the basic structures on which our reconnaissance and national security space enterprise is built.”

The uses of satellite imagery for military and intelligence purposes differ in content, quality, focus, frequency and timeliness. They also have different sustainability requirements for operations and therefore need different degrees of protection, he said.

“Military users need timely and continuing support, even when those systems are militarily contested, and they will be,” Kehler said. “Military users demand systems that can be used in training and exercises, whose products and services can be extended to troops and allies and readily augments or replaced. Today’s reconnaissance architecture does not meet these needs.”

The prime example of this divergence in requirements is a national space-based radar capability, Kehler said. The
United States
had been trying for more than a decade to field such a system for military and intelligence users, but to date has no plans to build such a system. Meanwhile, other nations have fielded the capability. Contrary to popular belief, the problem does not lie in the two communities’ ability to get along, he said.

“We have a set of requirements. We see the value of nighttime and all-weather reconnaissance and tracking. We have the technical capability to build such a system, and while likely it would be expensive, we could prioritize and fund such a system if that’s what we really wanted to do.”

“In my view, it’s because we’re trying to make one size fit all. We can’t reconcile the requirements. The mission needs of both have become so great that we’ve got more requirements than can’t be met by a single system.”

admitted he does not have all of the answers on how to transition to the new architecture he envisioned and that it would certainly be a tough process.

“We need to look at what the new configuration will be, we need to look at new measures to protect them, and we need new ways to operate and sustain them.”