‘ current economic turmoil will force the U.S. Defense Department and intelligence community to work together more closely than ever on satellite systems, the chairman of a congressional intelligence oversight panel said.
The battle for space program funding between the two sides must come to an end, and both also would be well served by collaborating more with
“Dutch” Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said at a Nov. 18 media breakfast here hosted by the Space Foundation. Ruppersberger’s House Intelligence subcommittee on technical and tactical intelligence spent a year studying the issues that have long plagued the
national security space enterprise. The resulting “Report on Challenges and Recommendations For United States Overhead Architecture,” released in October, was based on interviews with
government national security officials and industry executives.
“The military wants to own everything to support the war fighter,” he said. “We don’t have the money anymore to go off and let the military [and intelligence communities] do their own thing. We need a collaboration that hasn’t really developed.”
remarks are in contrast to suggestions by some others, notably U.S. Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of Air Force Space Command, that the requirements of the military and intelligence community often cannot be accommodated on the same platform.
“Our reconnaissance satellites have been designed, built and operated to meet the requirements of both the national intelligence [community] and the joint force commanders,” Kehler said in an Oct. 30 speech in
“I believe this approach is posing insurmountable problems, and those problems are going to get worse as we look to the future.”
said his subcommittee’s report should help guide U.S. President-elect BarackObama on a string of important decisions about the future of the nation’s space enterprise. Obama, who during his time in the U.S. Senate did not serve on any intelligence or appropriations committees, will have to be brought up to speed quickly, he said.
“will have a fresh look that I think will really help our country and see that we spend a tremendous amount of money on this overhead architecture. Failure’s not an option,” Ruppersberger said. “What I’m seeing and hearing right now, he’s got good people around him. Obama’s smart and he gets it. He has to focus on this because the amount of money involved and the risk. It’s what gives us our dominance in the world right now, that we control the skies.”
In preparing its report, Ruppersberger’s panel spoke with groups of executives from the top
space contractors on a not-for-attribution basis to ensure the greatest possible candor. One of the most prominent concerns voiced by the executives was the lack of a strategic plan for current and future national security space priorities, and the report urged the secretary of defense and the director of national intelligence to develop such a plan.
The executives also expressed concern about research and development funding on space programs. Today, only about 3 percent of what the
spends on space programs goes toward research and development, Ruppersberger said. Contractors are forced to do much of the development legwork on production contracts, a condition made worse by the constantly changing requirements for many programs. The subcommittee concluded that research and development funding should be increased to 8-10 percent of the program total.
The report also found the government needs to rely more on commercial space technology. Ruppersberger cited commercial satellite radar as an area where
industry has fallen behind other countries, primarily because of government restrictions.
“We have got to look at commercial because of the cost factor, but we can never use commercial if it doesn’t perform,” Ruppersberger said. “One of the things the new administration needs to focus on is the fact that we seriously have to look at a lot of applications where we’re not using it now.”
Finally, the report made recommendations intended to strengthen the
space industrial base. Fixing export regulations to allow
space companies to be more competitive in the world marketplace is one important step. Another is making space a more stable career field. With individual space programs sometimes providing thousands of private sector jobs, the government and contractors need to figure out a way to keep those employees from leaving the industry if their program gets canceled.
can order people where to go,” he said. “
will take the most intelligent mathematicians that they have, and when they graduate, they say, ‘you’re going to work in space,’ and that’s where they go. We can’t do that.”
also urged the new administration not to make the mistake of cutting the space and intelligence budgets.
He called the ability to control space and the skies the key to ensuring world peace and security. “If the bad guys dominate, we’re in real trouble. Hopefully
won’t be bad guys, but you have to watch them every single day. You better believe they’re watching us too.”