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.
“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.
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.