Pentagon, Intelligence Community May Adopt Unified Space Strategy

By Breanne Wagner

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The United States spends billions of dollars to maintain its superiority in space. But lack of coordination between the Defense Department and the intelligence community is impeding efforts to efficiently manage these efforts, government watchdogs say.

A strategy is needed to establish national space goals and priorities and to increase partnership and coordination, says the Government Accountability Office.

One was written in 2004, but has not been signed or acted upon for a number of reasons, including changes in leadership and cultural clashes, the GAO says in an April 2008 report.

Without a strategy, the U.S. government may be wasting time and effort, the agency says. “Until a national space strategy is issued, the defense and intelligence communities may continue to make independent decisions and use resources that are not necessarily based on national priorities, which could lead to gaps in some areas of space and redundancies in others.”

The report caused quite a stir.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne tells National Defense that in response to the criticism, military and intelligence officials have decided to endorse a national security space strategy.

Gen. C. Robert Kehler, head of Air Force Space Command, and Scott Large, National Reconnaissance Office director, will “step forward and respond to the GAO in a straightforward manner,” Wynne says in an interview during the Space Foundation’s national space symposium.

He did not provide a timeline for when Kehler and Large planned to sign off on the strategy.

One factor that has hindered development of the space strategy, Wynne says, is the “explosion” in the number of space leaders.

“Even as space was collapsing, we seemed to have more managers of space spread throughout the government and throughout the military,” he says.

As secretary of the Air Force, Wynne acts as Defense Department executive agent for space, but he hasn’t been able to efficiently make decisions because of the vast number of managers.

“I cannot move without a committee of pretty much 100,” he explains. “Here I sit as the vaunted space executive without the power to actually execute.”

The defense and intelligence communities also face an uphill battle to break down cultural and historical differences, GAO says. Strong cultural barriers were one of the main impediments to implementing the strategy that was first drafted in 2004, it says.

Garnett Stowe, vice president of Raytheon’s national intelligence programs, and a former CIA executive, says the historic relationship between the Defense Department and the intelligence community, as it relates to space programs, may help explain those deep-rooted cultural differences.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the two groups generally worked together to accomplish space missions, he says. But during the height of the Cold War, the two communities “divorced.”

After years of operating with differing missions, funding and priorities, the two groups have formed their own cultures, he explains. For example, the Defense Department is preoccupied with the idea of ownership. Military personnel want to own a piece of equipment and decide where it goes and what it does. On the other hand, intelligence officials just want equipment that can meet their needs.

Additionally, the two groups simply have distinct strategic goals, Stowe says. “For both communities, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are important, but for different purposes.” Whereas the Defense Department might want space systems to survey a particular area and look for something specific, intelligence officials might just want to overlook a larger area without focusing on one target.

Despite these differences, Wynne says that the two groups have discovered the necessity of sharing intelligence on the battlefield. Each group used to believe they had different customers and therefore different missions, but have since realized that’s not always the case.

“Many times we were asking the national security satellite people to give a tactical commander information when he needs it,” Wynne says.

In an effort to foster partnership and cooperation, the Air Force has decided to send a deputy to the National Reconnaissance Office and vice versa.

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Topics: Defense Department, Interagency Issues, Space

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