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 space-threat 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 anti-satellite 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.
F-22 update Japan's government is continuing to press the Bush administration to find a way to help Tokyo upgrade its air force with a new jet fighter, requesting the Air Force's latest stealth fighter, the F-22.
A senior Japanese government official said that while there is no deadline, "we need to decide on our next fighter to replace the senile" jets in the Air Self-Defense Force.
"We would like to explore several possibilities before it's too late at any rate, and the F-22 is certainly what we would like to look into," the official said.
Current U.S. law bans the Japanese from even investigating the purchase as a result of the amendment to a defense bill that prohibits export of the F-22. Yet the Bush administration has done nothing to seek a change in the law that would allow it, something the Air Force favors because an export version would lower unit costs.
The official said the F-22, which can easily penetrate air defenses in China or North Korea, could be deployed solely by the U.S. in Asia, which was done recently on a temporary mission.
"On the other hand, the U.S. already provided the Aegis to us, and I don't see much sense in keeping another military secret from a major ally," the official said, noting that the recent leak of Aegis secrets from the Maritime Self-Defense Forces sailor could be a problem.
The official said Japan is not worried by China's opposition to the sale of F-22s. However, China's recent appointment of new Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, a former interpreter who was dubbed "Tiger Yang" by former President George Bush, may be an effort by Beijing to head off any F-22 sale to Japan and promote other issues China views as important.
Iran assassin An Iranian opposition group has identified a senior member of the Iranian government as linked to a 1989 assassination in Austria.
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Jafari, deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council and a senior member of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was part of the formal Iranian government delegation that took part in the recent conference on Iraq in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt.
The general also was the focus of a major U.S. military operation to capture him in January in Irbil, Iraq. The raid netted five Iranians linked to insurgent support, but Gen. Jafari escaped the hunt and made it back to Iran, where he is deputy to Ali Larijani, the Iranian nuclear negotiator.
Gen. Jafari was part of the Iranian assassination team that killed Abdolrahman Qasemlou, leader of the Iranian-Kurdistan Democratic Party, on July 13, 1989, in a Vienna apartment. An arrest warrant was issued, but Gen. Jafari was allowed by the Austrian government to return to Iran.
"By sending a notorious terrorist like Jafari to the most prominent international gathering like the meeting in Sharm el Sheik, the clerical regime clearly showed that for them negotiations and diplomacy are only tools to facilitate their terrorist objectives, export of fundamentalism and acquiring nuclear weapons," said Shahin Gobadi, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of National Council of Resistance of Iran, an Iranian opposition group.