Air Force Wants Control of Spaceby Noah Shachtman, m.wired.com
November 7th 2007
Not too long ago, the Air Force tried to snag power over all of the military’s drones. That didn’t work out very well — the Pentagon brass smacked down the plan. So now, flyboys’ new idea is to "gain control over development, construction and operational support of nearly all national-security space systems," the Wall Street Journal reports.
The new, long-term campaign, sketched out in a speech here earlier this week by Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, the service’s top uniformed space acquisition official, seeks to roll back the role of the Army and the Navy in overseeing future satellite programs. It also envisions more direct Air Force control over other, multibillion-dollar surveillance satellites desired by the U.S.
Now, military space systems — on the whole — have been a downright mess in recent years; way overbudget, even by Pentagon standards, and chronically late. So some bureaucratic clean-up would be very much in order. But, at least in the Journal’s
characterization of Hamel’s speech, there doesn’t seem to have been much mention of that. Instead, the focus appears to be on battles within the halls of the Pentagon — and against the Chinese, in orbit.
Such a shift is necessary, he told an industry conference, to reduce the "fractious infighting, if you will, between various organizations" that now mars space policy and acquisitions, and to create "a more coherent framework" for assuring
U.S. space superiority…
Under today’s practices, the Navy buys some of the high-frequency satellite communications systems it relies on, while the
Army is slated to oversee some of the advanced communications networks essential to lighter, more mobile ground forces.
Meanwhile, intelligence agencies and their champions in Congress have been battling with the Air Force over how to develop, and who will end up controlling, proposed spy satellite constellations.
The friction has grown to the point that House and Senate committees earlier this year voted out widely divergent bills for future space radar efforts. In addition to sharp disagreements over funding levels, the bills also clashed over which organization should be in charge of development…
Defense Secretary Robert Gates is considering other changes as well. One is a return to space organization principles used and then abandoned by the Bush administration, such as a single, unified civilian leadership structure in charge of buying both military and intelligence satellites.
One argument increasingly used by the Air Force to expand its authority is the need to develop new ways to defend space assets in the future. In one of the bluntest explanations of that argument in an unclassified forum, Col. Gary Henry, vice commander of the space superiority wing at the Space and Missile Systems Center commanded by Gen. Hamel, told the conference that the Air Force is looking for various ways not only to defend against, but to attack potential space adversaries. "We’re going to have to defend aggressively," Col. Henry said, because recent advances by China present "a very clear signal we no longer have sanctuary in space."
Original Page: http://m.wired.com/dangerroom/2007/11/not-too-long-ag/