Space in­tel wars

The Washington Times Weekly - - National -

De­fense of­fi­cials say a turf war is shap­ing up that could di­min­ish the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the gov­ern­ment’s most im­por­tant space intelligence cen­ter, the Air Force’s Na­tional Air and Space Intelligence Cen­ter (NASIC).

The Air Force cen­ter, lo­cated at Wright-Pat­ter­son Air Force Base, Ohio, was the key cen­ter in iden­ti­fy­ing China’s se­cret anti-satel­lite weapons pro­gram and mon­i­tor­ing the provoca­tive Jan. 11 test by China of an anti-satel­lite weapon.

The of­fi­cials say NASIC’s spacethreat anal­y­sis work is in dan­ger as a re­sult of a De­fense Intelligence Agency re­or­ga­ni­za­tion plan that seeks to take the space-threat mis­sions from NASIC, which is un­der the Air Com­bat Com­mand, and give it to DIA-run com­po­nents, in­clud­ing the Mis­sile and Space Intelligence Cen­ter in Huntsville, Ala., the Army Na­tional Ground Intelligence Cen­ter in Charlottesville and the Of­fice of Naval Intelligence.

“Th­ese ac­tions by DIA are clearly not based on the out­stand­ing per­for­mance of NASIC in this area over the last 10 plus years, but rather demon­strate DIA’s gross mis­man­age­ment of de­fense intelligence by putting po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests ahead of pro­vid­ing the best intelligence for the na­tion,” said one of­fi­cial op­posed to the move.

Crit­ics say the rea­son for the move is that DIA was “asleep at the switch” on the Chi­nese an­ti­satel­lite pro­gram.

“DIA has re­peat­edly ig­nored re­quests by NASIC over the last four years for more re­sources to work the coun­ter­space-threat is­sue,” the of­fi­cial said. “Dur­ing this same pe­riod of time, DIA al­lowed, and quite pos­si­bly en­cour­aged, other de­fense intelligence or­ga­ni­za­tions to ig­nore their coun­ter­space-threat anal­y­sis mis­sions.”

Moves to gut NASIC could also be com­ing from the Na­tional Re­con­nais­sance Of­fice, which has op­posed NASIC’s threat anal­y­sis of grow­ing space-weapons dan­gers and sought threat as­sess­ments from con­trac­tors. The NRO, which builds and op­er­ates mil­i­tary spy satel­lites, has sought to play down the grow­ing threat to its “birds” in space and is now fac­ing the dan­ger that by 2010, China could de­stroy all low Earth or­bit satel­lites in a se­ries of strikes, ef­fec­tively blind­ing the mil­i­tary.

“The NRO prefers [and re­wards its con­trac­tors] for threats that are in sync their cor­po­rate plans,” the of­fi­cial said. “NASIC has been pro­vid­ing threat in­for­ma­tion to the NRO for over 10 years, and over the last four to five years many of NASIC threat analy­ses have caused a great deal of anx­i­ety at the NRO.”

Both DIA and NRO spokes­men de­nied that NASIC is be­ing gut­ted.

A DIA state­ment said their agency and the Air Force are “in dis­cus­sions” over the “align­ment of an­a­lytic pri­or­i­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties with re­gard to a hand­ful of mis­sile sys­tems.”

“We do not ex­pect th­ese dis­cus­sions to re­sult in mov­ing mis­sions, per­son­nel or re­sources from ei­ther [the Mis­sile and Space Intelligence Cen­ter] or NASIC,” the state­ment said.

An NRO spokesman de­nied that the agency was shop­ping for less alarm­ing space-threat analy­ses from de­fense con­trac­tors out­side NASIC.

How­ever, an April let­ter to Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the DIA di­rec­tor, from 12 Ohio mem­bers of Congress calls for the DIA to re­view its plans for NASIC. Of­fi­cials said as a re­sult, Gen. Maples has placed the ef­fort on hold.

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