McClellan A. (Guy) DuBois
Vice President, Operational Technologies and Solutions
Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems
It is widely expected that defense and intelligence budgets will flatten out over the next several years, but Guy DuBois believes pockets of growth will remain and that his company is well placed to take advantage.
Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems provides software, hardware and engineering support to satellite command-and-control facilities and also for handling, analyzing and distributing the data satellites and other platforms collect. Not only is the
government continuously upgrading its ground infrastructure as new technology becomes available, it is striving toward a one-size-fits-all architecture in which the same ground systems can be used regardless of the type of data or collection platform involved.
There also are new satellite programs on the horizon – despite the uncertainty now surrounding the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office’s planned Broad Area Space-based Imagery Collector (BASIC) system – many of them in the commercial arena. DuBois says most of his business is in the classified realm, with major customers being the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and other intelligence organizations.
An economist by training, DuBois logged 26 years with the CIA, including a stint as director of operations and tasking for the National Imagery Satellite Constellation. He spoke recently with Space News Deputy Editor Warren Ferster and staff writer Turner Brinton.
When it comes to total spending on satellite collection capabilities, is most of the funding spent on the ground systems?
Over the life of the program that would be a fair statement, yes. If you look at any major satellite program – both classified and unclassified – over the past 20 or 30 years, there are the high costs of the satellite, as all the commercial satellite providers have noticed; just to do the fixed cost of building something, launching something, getting it on orbit and making sure it can operate. But once you do that, for the life of the program, it’s operating the ground system, it’s ingesting the product, it’s doing the analysis, it’s constantly doing the operations and maintenance for the ground station, and doing upgrades. Things like that really dominate the budget.
defense and intelligence officials talk about a platform-agnostic tasking, processing, exploitation and dissemination system as a holy grail of sorts for this business. How close are we to actually having such a system?
government is not where they want to go in this area. But we are much closer today than we were when this debate really started to rage in the mid-1990s.
What are the challenges to getting to that type of system?
The first challenge is technical. Part of that is the standards by which all of the systems can ingest the information and then do something with it. And not everybody operates by the same standards, so that becomes an issue. As we move to this open architecture concept, that part becomes standards-agnostic, where you can move between platforms and systems.
Then there’s the constant security challenge and the willingness to share information. This is something the director of national intelligence is focusing on, but it’s not something that’s been uniformly implemented across the intelligence community.
And then the third area is really the issues related to the huge volume of information and the different types of platforms. It’s one thing to talk about fixed imagery when you’re looking at a point on the Earth; it’s another thing to talk about full motion video, which has its own issues. You’ve got storage problems, retrieval problems, and bandwidth problems. You’re sitting at the end of a very small pipe and you want to bring a lot of information down.
Can we get to that capability by evolving the systems we have now, or do we need brand new systems?
It’s probably 80 percent you can get there from here and 20 percent you’re going to need new systems. That’s just a guess but that ratio is probably not too far off.
Will the so-called National System for Geospatial Intelligence achieve that capability?
It gets us to the point of a seamless shareable architecture and becomes the baseline by which you put all information together. The nice thing about geospatial intelligence is it is the merger of good geospatial data with good intelligence data, and you start with the assumption that everybody’s got to be someplace. That’s the geospatial side of it. And then you add on top of that the layers of information that allow you to really get to an answer. If NGA implements that architecture, it is both the systems and the standards by which you will develop all that information and move all that information around.
What kind of an opportunity is this for ground system providers?
We think it’s a great opportunity. NGA has made it clear that the blocks of this architecture are going to be competitive, and that the major providers are all going to be allowed to give NGA the opportunity to look at what we can do and how we can do it.
As the legacy prime on the NGA’sGeoScout infrastructure upgrade effort, does Lockheed Martin have an edge when it comes to procurements associated with the National System for Geospatial Intelligence?
In some areas I would say yes. They’re the prime on the exploitation system, and they’ve done a very good job on that. That’s an area were you’d have to say they’re in a pretty good position. In other areas, the technology’s moving so fast that it would be hard to say anybody really has an inside track.
When Don Kerr was director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), he put a new emphasis on ground systems. What did that mean?
The history of space programs has been that each collector has had its own ground architecture, resulting in its own ground station, its own communications, and its own command and control system. Every time you put up a new system, it required that you go do this.
The result was a tremendous spaghetti diagram of what the NRO and the commercial providers’ ground architectures looked like. That’s history. In the future, what you’re going to see are common ground stations that are focused on commanding and controlling multiple satellites out of a ground station or a series of linked ground stations, and all the information will be downlinked to one or multiple ground stations, giving you increased survivability.
Has this new emphasis translated into more business?
Not yet. We do expect that to happen. The NRO is going through what are probably the final stages of its reorganization. They’ve set the leadership team up, know where they want to go, and the issue now is going to be what kind of structure do they have under them to make this happen. But obviously the industry is very interested. This concept has been a long time coming, and we think this emphasis on the ground is the right thing to do.
Do you still see an opportunity on the BASIC program even though Congress put the brakes on the satellite procurement?
The whole debate about where the
government goes for electro-optical information opens up a huge opportunity for the industry. For Raytheon and the industry as a whole, if government demand for electro-optical goes up, it’s a win-win situation no matter how the final decision comes down.
What are the challenges associated with bringing commercial imagery into the national security imagery architecture?
I don’t think it’s a technical challenge. It may be a policy challenge in terms of tasking and coordination and things like that.
An element of the operationally responsive space concept is direct satellite tasking by forces in the field. Is this possible for assets shared by the military and intelligence community, or are we really talking about two parallel universes that can’t coexist?
Right now you’re talking about two parallel universes that can’t coexist. I don’t believe that’s going to be true in the future. Some of what makes these parallel universes parallel are policy decisions that have been made by the Defense Department. For example, in the 1990s we designed the current tasking system for imagery to go down deep into the armed forces. And each one of the services restricted that and said ‘we don’t want that to happen.’ The users had to sort out a lot of policy issues about who has the authority to task.