Space plan empowers Air Force

The most important element of the Pentagon's new plan for space programs is that it gives the Air Force the power to decide whether programs proceed, according to Maj. Gen. Brian Arnold, the service's director of space and nuclear deterrence.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced a reorganization plan May 8 aimed at making control of space one of the Pentagon's top priorities. The plan has significant implications for military command, control and intelligence as well as missile defense.

Among other things, it makes the Air Force the executive agent for space and gives the service so-called "milestone decision authority." That essentially means the Air Force decides which Defense Department space programs progress from one phase of development and procurement to another.

The authority will be delegated from the secretary of Defense directly to the Air Force.

"Of all the recommendations they made yesterday, that is the most critical," Arnold said during a speech at a National Defense Industrial Association luncheon in Tyson's Corner, Va. "I think it will really, really streamline [the acquisition process]. Clearly, it's going to speed it up."

Rumsfeld said the reorganization does not necessarily give the Air Force additional power over the other services, but it does give the Air Force added responsibility.

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