Air Force transforming space ops

To take advantage of the best people, processes and technologies that the military and intelligence communities have to offer, the undersecretary of the Air Force is launching several initiatives focused on a transformation of space operations related to national security.

Air Force undersecretary Peter Teets, also director of the National Reconnaissance Office, officially took over his dual positions in December 2001 and said the goal of the space transformation effort is to bring together military and national intelligence elements to provide the nation with the best space-based security systems possible.

To achieve that goal, Teets announced the creation of two offices under his command:

* A deputy for military space, who will oversee the military side of space activities and complement the NRO deputy director, Dennis Fitzgerald, who manages the day-to-day operations at that agency.

* A directorate of national security space integration, led by Maj. Gen. (select) Michael Hamel, who is responsible for implementing best practices of military and national space programs.

At a Pentagon press briefing Feb. 7, Teets said the deputy for military space position is still open, but he has someone in mind — most likely a civilian — whom he hopes to name shortly. Once that post is filled, the new offices, along with the NRO's Fitzgerald, will handle the daily operations and work on "integrating the cultures of military and intelligence space professionals," allowing Teets to focus more on "big picture" issues.

Among those issues is developing new technologies and techniques to aid U.S. warfighters and strengthen the nation's defense.

"It's very important that we have persistent intelligence, universal in terms of time [and] space," he said. "We need to develop breakthrough technologies and implement new techniques."

Specifically, Teets said that although the nation's intelligence capabilities have traditionally been top-notch, "We need to add persistence to the equation [to achieve] universal situational awareness." He said one way to do to that is to develop "new technologies to allow us to have excellent information-gathering capabilities at higher altitudes."

To support the development of new technologies, Teets said he would push for additional research and development activities for the NRO and the Air Force's space commands.

Teets said one space-based system being reviewed because of "poor program management over the last year or two" is the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS), which combines space- and ground-based systems to detect launches and determine where missiles will strike. The Air Force recently completed Increment 1, which consolidated ground control from three systems into one, but the next two phases are in jeopardy in President Bush's 2003 budget proposal.

Increment 2, or SBIRS-High is scheduled to receive more than $814 million in 2003, an increase of more than $376 million over fiscal 2002 funding. This phase will add four satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit and two sensors in highly elliptical orbit. However, SBIRS-High has suffered from poor program management and direction from both the government and the contractor, Lockheed-Martin Corp., Teets said.

Increment 3, also know as SBIRS-Low, was "restructured" in the fiscal 2003 proposal and will be pushed back for two years, according to DOD officials. SBIRS-Low will add 20 to 30 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide midcourse missile tracking.

Air Force Secretary James Roche and chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper, have fielded an independent review team examining the past problems with SBIRS, and Teets said he is also reviewing the program.

"We're on a parallel path that will culminate at the end of April, and will take a hard look at restructuring the program," he said. Teets added that the NRO seeks "creative options" to SBIRS-High, and if the restructuring options are not satisfactory, the Air Force would not hesitate to "go in other directions."

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