President Barack Obama is expected to approve a new constellation of highly classified multi-billion dollar spy satellites in the next few days, injecting a major new expenditure into the Defense Department budget that was not planned when the administration began its budget deliberations.
The debate between the intelligence community and the military over this system has been particularly sharp. In the words of one Hill source familiar with the issue. A deep path has been worn between the Pentagon on this one, the source said.
Gates and Blair signed a classified memo approving the program on March 30, according to two sources familiar with the program. Details of the program are highly classified. A DNI spokesman had not responded by the time we posted this story but may provide details later.
However, we have obtained a few details in the meantime.
The system may cost $3.5 billion to get started, if earlier estimates are accurate. It may cost up to $10 billion, over the next five years depending on which technical approach was approved and on how many satellites will be built.
The Hill source said that the DNI and Pentagon would have great trouble paying for the system. I dont think they can come up with enough to pay for two-plus-two, the source said, refusing to add any details.
-- Colin Clark