The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence cut all funding for the Pentagon’s Space Radar effort from its version of the 2008 intelligence budget,
which was sent to the Senate floor
The Space Radar program is jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to develop satellites that can spot moving targets on the ground and take high-resolution images, regardless of time of day or weather conditions.
The program’s budget is classified, and the House version of the intelligence bill does not state whether it funds the Space Radar program.
The Senate Armed Services Committee did not provide funding for the program in its version of the defense authorization bill. Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, said that the House version supports the Pentagon’s budget request for the effort.
In a report accompanying its version of the 2008 intelligence budget legislation, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence stated that it is not opposed to joint development of a Space Radar capability, but said
there may be ways to build it that involve less technical risk and cost than the current program.
The committee cited a Government Accountability Office report that
criticized the Air Force for starting more satellite programs than it can afford, and said
it had similar concerns regarding the intelligence community. The committee noted that while Space Radar program officials have reduced the planned size of the constellation in order to keep costs under control, the cost of each satellite has soared while the overall capability has been significantly diminished.
The GAO report noted that the Director of National Intelligence submitted a report to Congress in February
that highlighted the general need for the NRO to better align its program plans with anticipated budgets.
The intelligence bill also includes several provisions intended to bolster oversight on space and other programs. The bill notes that half of the intelligence community’s current space programs have experienced cost growth of 50 percent or more
, and calls on the Director of National Intelligence to submit an annual report to Congress on each major acquisition effort.
The bill notes that while intelligence agencies like the NRO and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) have their own inspector generals, those auditors lack sufficient power including the ability to issue subpoenas. The bill grants them such capabilities, and also requires an agency director to notify Congress if an inspector general is to be removed or transferred.
The report also notes that the directors of the NRO, NGA
and National Security Agency are not currently subject to Senate confirmation, unless an active duty military official is moved into the position. The bill would
a Senate confirmation for those slots.
This provision in the bill does not apply to the officials currently in those positions, but will begin with their successors, according to the report.
The bill also directs the NRO inspector general to review “accountability practices” used on some programs with the hope that the review will lead to the incorporation of mechanisms that can improve accountability on the agency’s programs.
The bill also seeks to extend an exemption from providing operational files to Freedom of Information Act requests that is currently granted to the CIA
to other intelligence agencies like the NRO.
Another provision in the bill calls on the Director of National Intelligence to create a National Space Intelligence Office that would help better characterize threats to U.S. satellites and identify ways that enemies can use space against the United States. The report notes that some estimates have found that the United States spends about 10 percent today
compared to what it was spending
25 years ago on analyzing threats to satellites.
The new office will coordinate policy direction for the management of intelligence satellites and provide collection priorities, according to the report. The office will augment, rather than replace the National Air and Space Intelligence Center and the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, the report said.