Commercial satellite policy released

The White House recently established a satellite policy that calls for the government to rely as much as possible on "commercial remote sensing space capabilities" to meet intelligence and military needs.

The policy, authorized by President Bush April 25 and publicly released May 13, comes almost a year after the president directed the National Security Council, with support of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to review national space policies.

The new policy provides guidance for numerous areas including:

* Licensing and operation of U.S. commercial remote sensing space systems.

* Government use of commercial remote sensing space capabilities.

* Foreign access to and exports of these capabilities.

* Government-to-government intelligence, defense and foreign policy relationships involving commercial remote sensing space capabilities.

"Its goal is to advance and protect our national security and foreign policy interests by maintaining the nation's leadership in remote-sensing space activities, and by sustaining and enhancing U.S. remote sensing industry," according to the policy. "Doing so will also foster economic growth, contributing to environmental stewardship and enabling science and technology excellence."

In support of this goal, the U.S. government will:

* Rely — to the maximum extent practical — on U.S. commercial remote sensing space capabilities to fill imagery and geospatial needs for military, intelligence, foreign policy, homeland security and civil users.

* Focus remote sensing space systems on meeting needs that cannot be effectively, affordably and reliably satisfied by commercial providers because of economic factors, civil mission needs, national security issues or foreign policy concerns.

* Develop a long-term, sustainable relationship between the U.S. government and the U.S. commercial remote sensing space industry.

* Provide a timely and responsive regulatory environment for licensing the operation and export of commercial remote sensing space systems.

* Enable U.S. industry to compete successfully as a provider of remote sensing space capabilities for foreign governments and foreign commercial users.

Under the new policy, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency maintains key responsibilities for commercial remote sensing from space when applied to national security and foreign policy. NASA and the departments of Commerce and the Interior are jointly responsible for identifying civil remote sensing needs, and all federal agencies will allocate the resources required to implement these objectives.

The policy also assigns specific implementation actions for the secretaries of Defense, State and Commerce, and the director of central intelligence. NIMA will have a leadership position in at least three of the implementation plans and will be a supporter of the remaining five, according to the agency.

Earlier this year, NIMA awarded DigitalGlobe Inc. a $72 million contract and Space Imaging Inc. a $120 million deal. Dan Hinchberger, a contracting officer at NIMA, said each deal's initial amount is the minimum guarantee over three years, but each contract has a ceiling of $500 million over five years.

The contracts, collectively known as Clearview, require commercial data providers to deliver high-resolution satellite imagery to NIMA. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Clapper, NIMA's director, said the agency received a "multiple-fold increase" in funding for commercial satellite imagery purchases this year compared to fiscal 2002 levels.

Mike Rodrigue, director of NIMA's production support office, said the agency spent $96 million in that area in fiscal 2002 and is looking at a potential 10 percent increase this year. In commercial imagery support, NIMA spent $35 million last year and is anticipating as much as a 300 percent increase in the current fiscal year, he said.

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