- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2000

At an Army symposium earlier this month the discussion was all about the future. The modern Army is deter-

mined not to do what it has been accused of doing in the past planning for the last war with outdatedweapons. One remembers the pictures of horse soldiers training on the eve of World War II when the Germans were preparing to conquer Europe with Panzer divisions.

The Army even invited a vice president from Walt Disney's Imagineering division to explain how they develop futuristic ideas, in the hope the attending officials would be inspired to think in unconventional ways. A major theme of the conference was support from space. Just as invention of the airplane 97 years ago totally transformed warfare in the 20th century, the use of space will change it dramatically in the 21st century.

The Army already is heavily reliant on space. Hundreds of satellites provide a range of support services, including navigation, global communications, early warning of attack, weather monitoring, and intelligence on where an enemy is and what he is doing. More and better space-based sensors are a high priority. The global positioning system navigation satellites enable individual soldiers with hand-held receivers to know exactly where they are, and for rescuers to easily find downed airmen.

Early warning satellites, both high-altitude and low-altitude, will be critical components of the planned national and theater missile defenses. A major advantage of satellites is that they provide global coverage as they orbit the Earth. A few years ago no one would have predicted U.S. soldiers would be in Bosnia and Kosovo. And no one knows where they will go next. But the global reach of satellites makes it possible to deploy forces anywhere on Earth and give them immediate support from space.

One theme repeated over and over was the need for new space-based sensors that can provide better information on enemy movements. Existing reconnaissance satellites do an excellent job of identifying fixed targets for aircraft and cruise missile attacks, but it is hard to track forces on the move, especially where there is heavy cloud cover. Much of Europe, Serbia included, is overcast much of the year. That made it difficult to track Serb tanks and ground units, which use camouflage effectively and move when satellites cannot see them.

Lt. Gen. Eugene Tattini, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, said the Discoverer 2 space-based radar now being development to track moving targets takes the concept of space-based sensors to a new level. It will provide a deep look at the enemy day and night, in all kinds of weather, anywhere on Earth, and send its information directly to forces on the ground or in the air in 60 seconds. "It has the potential," he said, "to redefine military operations on the ground."

Lt. Gen. John Costello, commander of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, is equally enthusiastic. "The world is changing fast and the Army has to change with it," he said, "overhead surveillance leaves nowhere to hide."

Other speakers echoed the need for satellites that can see targets deep in enemy territory in any weather, even before hostilities begin.

In view of widespread support for space-based radar in all the services, as well as in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, it is surprising that some members of the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) keep trying to kill Discoverer 2. For several years HAC has canceled the program each year only to have it restored in conference. This year HAC did it again, eliminating the $129 million requested.

The committee said the program has no concept of operations, the estimated total program cost of $702 million "probably will exceed $1 billion," the Defense Department has done no trade-off analyses with other overhead systems, additional data would tax the imagery processing center, and if Discoverer 2 satellites are built and deployed it would require an increase in the defense budget in future years.

These arguments don't hold up. The Pentagon is developing a concept of operations for Discoverer 2. The $702 million figure is a consensus estimate developed by the agencies involved and validated by an independent cost estimate. The U.S. Space Command considers space-based radar a critical capability for the future, and if it works as planned, trade-offs with other platforms will be made.

The complaint that it would tax the data processing system ignores the plan to process the information on the satellite and downlink it directly to the theater of operations, which eliminates the need to go through the central system. Finally, developing such advanced technology is a good investment, critical to maintaining military superiority in the 21st century.

Would the HAC buy cavalry horses because they cost less than satellites? The future is coming fast and the Pentagon is trying to keep its lead in space. Congress should continue development of Discoverer 2 satellite technology.

James T. Hackett is a contributing writer for The Washington Times based in San Diego.

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