RECONNAISSANCE

Satellites

Articles

2008 - 2009

Materials arranged chronologically.

Scully, Megan. "National Reconnaissance Office Cancels Contracts for Proposed Space Radar Project." Government Executive, 4 Apr. 2008. [http://www.govexec.com]

NRO officials "last week officially notified Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin that they are terminating their contracts on the troubled Space Radar development project, effectively ending a program whose support on Capitol Hill had been dwindling amid cost concerns, schedule delays and technological problems."

Hess, Pamela. "Pentagon Will Acquire, Build Spy Satellites." Associated Press, 2 Jul. 2008. [http://www.ap.com]

According to government and industry officials, the Pentagon "will buy and operate one or two commercial imagery satellites and plans to design and build another with more sophisticated spying capabilities .... The Broad Area Surveillance Intelligence Capability (BASIC) satellite system will cost between $2 billion and $4 billion." The NRO will "buy and operate the satellites." Military commanders "will, for the first time, have the power to dictate what satellites will photograph when they pass overhead. The concept is known as 'assured tasking.'... Now, they submit their requests to a national intelligence authority that prioritizes the missions."

Lipton, Eric. "Administration Trying for Spy Satellites Again." New York Times, 18 Sep. 2008. [http://www.nytimes.com]

A "$1.7 billion project approved last week" seeks "to have two new satellites in orbit by 2012." The government's last spy satellite effort, the so-called Future Imagery Architecture, was canceled in 2005 before a single satellite was launched, at a cost of "at least $4 billion." There is already debate over whether the new program, the Broad Area Space-Based Imagery Collector, "should be building two new satellites of its own or acquiring images from private companies."

U.S. Congress. House. Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence. Report on Challenges and Recommendations for United States Overhead Architecture. House Report No. 110-914. Washington, DC: GPO, 3 Oct. 2008. [http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/2008_rpt/hrpt110-914.html]

This is an indictment of the current status of the U.S. satellite program. The report avoids confronting the organizational mistakes that began in the mid-1990s and continued through Donald Rumsfeld's tenure as Defense Secretary, and therefore does not convince this reader that the root problems are understood. However, much of the report's rhetoric is on the mark. The "Executive Summary" states: "The United States is losing its preeminence in space. A once robust partnership between the U.S. Government and the American space industry has been weakened by years of demanding space programs, the exponential complexity of technology, and an inattention to acquisition discipline."

See reportage by Walter Pincus, "Tension May Feed Decline of U.S. Power in Space," Washington Post, 13 Oct. 2008, A19.

Hess, Pamela. "Intel Chief Wants New Spy Satellite Program." Associated Press, 3 Apr. 2009. [http://www.ap.com]

According to government, military, and industry officials, the DNI and the defense secretary "are asking the Obama administration to approve" the building of "two sophisticated satellites equal to or better than the huge, high-resolution secret satellites now in orbit.... [T]he government would also commit to spend enough money on commercial satellite imagery sufficient to pay for the construction and launch of two new commercial satellites." The uniformed military had argued for developing a "new class of more numerous, less expensive, lower-orbiting satellites."

Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Public Affairs Office. "DNI Blair Announces Plan for the Next Generation of Electro-Optical Satellites." ODNI News Release No. 12-09. Washington, DC: 7 Apr. 2009. [http://www.dni.gov/press_releases.htm]

DNI Dennis C. Blair announced on 7 April 2009 that "the Office of the DNI along with the Department of Defense (DoD) have put together a plan to modernize the nation's aging satellite-imagery architecture by prudently evolving government-owned satellite designs and enhancing use of U.S. commercial providers."

Key features of the plan include: "Government-owned satellites would be developed, built and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office"; DoD and the Intelligence Community "would increase the use of imagery available through U.S. commercial providers"; and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency "would continue to provide the infrastructure that integrates capabilities as well as imagery products."

"Once Congress approves funding for the plan, implementation will begin in the next several months. The commercial imagery elements of the architecture would likely be operational in the next several years. The overall architecture would be fully deployed before the end of the next decade."

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