by Launchspace Staff Writers
Bethesda MD (SPX) Jan 06, 2009
History has shown that timing is important. In this case, the new Obama administration has a unique and historic opportunity to address the many national security space issues simultaneously. In recent years multiple commissions and panels have reviewed the shortcomings of national security space management, organization, acquisition and performance.
The latest US congressionally mandated study, the Independent Assessment Panel (July 2008) led by Tom Young, concluded that the organizational separation of military and intelligence space has outlived its historical purpose. There is now a sense of urgency, because US space preeminence is eroding. Many reasons can be cited.
Among them are a lack of leadership, indifference at the executive level, poor and inexperienced management, no clear vision for the future, a lack of accountability and the fact that space has been a "stepchild" in the US defense community. There are several underlying reasons for our current situation.
Space is not a battleground where military personnel are at risk and thus, is not perceived as equally important as equipment needed for military engagements. Access to space is extremely limited and costly. The use of space is complicated and not well understood by the public or by US government decision makers.
Defense applications of space organizationally fall under the Air Force, which has limited funds and is largely focused on new fighters such as the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. Finally, the use and impact of space for national security applications have evolved through the introduction of several disruptive technologies.
Thus, the advantages of using space have not been fully integrated into the US security architecture, nor has there been an executive level effort to centralize the space infrastructure under a single accountable authority.
"Business-as-usual" is not an option for effective national security. Space is critically important to the future of US foreign policy, world leadership and the domestic security. Complex and multifaceted twenty-first century national security threats and expected future requirements on high-technology space assets will lead to non-responsive and diminished operations in terms of supporting sophisticated ground, air and space applications for military and civilian operations. And, recent miscues in several important US space programs have highlighted the need for a new approach to space usage.
To continue US preeminence in space and to assure national security the new President must focus on a fix. The urgency of reinforcing national security makes it imperative that these issues are addressed soon. The Young Panel may have it right: reorganize US national security space under the National Security Council and name someone who can take responsibility for program decisions and funding authority while accountable for results.
If the decision is made to organizationally centralize national security space, why not physically centralize the national security space infrastructure into an integrated services operation available to all defense and intelligence users?
We could consider concepts like DARPA's F6 Program and one proposed at the Space 2008 Conference that involves a single hierarchical space infrastructure that uses multiple satellite constellations to deliver security products for both defense and intelligence applications.
This suggests that we do away with existing large monolithic spacecraft that are dedicated to single applications and replace them with distributed systems that simultaneously serve all national security users with a transparent space infrastructure.
The acceptance of such a new paradigm will require an acceptance of the notion that one system of systems can deliver all national security space services.
The existing stovepipe culture has evolved over the past 50 years believing in the "dedicated spacecraft for my mission" philosophy. This culture must be fundamental changed in order to look beyond single-function missions and progress to other more-realistic options.
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