Senior Pentagon leaders are trying
to protect the
fledging Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program office from taking on acquisition responsibilities that could drain its budget.


Joe Rouge, director of the National Security Space Office, said during an April 29 speech at the 6th Responsive Space Conference here
that the new office, which began operation in May 2007, needs to remain focused on rapidly meeting urgent military needs.


The ORS program office has been given direction from Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne, who oversees the office as the Pentagon’s executive agent for space, to contribute funding to projects that reflect the goals of responsive space, but not those “that are purely there because someone else didn’t do their job right,” Rouge said.


The ORS office is “not the source to fund everyone else’s problems,” Rouge said.

One hypothetical example that Rouge gave to illustrate the type of project the Pentagon considers to be ill-suited for the ORS office is the development of large constellations of satellites, such as a weather constellation of 40 satellites costing $10 million each. While the ORS office could help with some of the enabling technology for responsive capabilities from those systems, military service organizations responsible for equipping their forces should fund the procurements, he said.


Rouge noted that some ORS proponents have expressed disappointment with the level of planned spending for the office
– roughly $500 million through 2013. However, Rouge said that he viewed that figure as a significant investment, given the newness of the ORS initiative and the fact that most of the systems and other solutions that will be paid for with that money have not been specified up front. Spending on ORS could increase with future budget requests, he said.


Rouge also noted that the ORS office currently faces more user needs than it has funding to address. This may help the office secure more funding in the future as Pentagon budget officials had been reluctant to provide money to an organization that did not appear to have such responsibilities, he said.


Josh Hartman, special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in an April 30 speech at the conference that as the ORS effort demonstrates value to U.S. forces, it may have an easier time attracting more money. Hartman, a former congressional aide and a longtime outspoken advocate for the ORS effort
, agreed with Rouge that ORS cannot meet all military needs.


Even in cases where applied appropriately, the value of ORS concepts should not be oversold, and an ORS satellite or other solution may play
just one part in the overall effort to address the military in question, Hartman said. Space officials need to pay close attention to how ORS capabilities fit into the overall architectures of systems used on the battlefield, he said.


Air Force Maj. Richard Operhall, an Air Force Space Command official who had previously served in Iraq,
said during an April 30 panel discussion at the conference that solutions to meeting military needs in Iraq like countering enemy use of improvised explosive devices often have
relied on combinations of different systems with no one piece of hardware handling missions alone.


In many cases, military users might
not need highly capable systems from ORS because
a small increase of capability from space, combined with improvements from a variety of other types of systems, can add up, Operhall said.


Satellite designers need to keep that concept in mind as they develop systems for the ORS effort, according to Army Lt. Col. Brent Campbell, chief of the space division at U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha, Neb. Exquisite solutions may take too long to develop to meet the timelines associated with responsive space, he said during the April 30 panel discussion.


In some cases, such as the development of a signals intelligence sensor, a commander may not need a system that can pinpoint the exact location of a transmission, Campbell said. There may be instances where a sensor could be useful even if it can only locate the state or country where the transmission is taking place,
he said.

Comments: jsinger@space.com