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Space Radar Plan, React In -- All Hush Hush

The intelligence community has sent its detailed plans for the next version of the Space Radar program to the House and Senate intelligence committees, fulfilling an obligation place upon it by lawmakers in last year's defense authorization bill.

That word came from Vice Adm. Robert Murrett, director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) at a breakfast he had with Defense Writers Group reporters this morning. When I asked Murrett if he and his cohorts had sent the plan to Congress, he affirmed that they had and added one interesting detail: the plan calls for a "multi-tiered constellation."

He wouldn't elaborate (heading out the door in a rush as he was) but I understand this includes a mix of foreign radar data, possible US commercial systems and the highly classified radar system that was the object of the last five years of unsuccessful haggling between the military and the intelligence community. The basic disagreement was over conflicting requirements for surface moving target indication required by the military and the so-called strategic radar system for which the intelligence folks rooted. It all ended about nine months ago when the NRO formally canceled the program admitting it would cost too much and might be just too technologically challenging.

A source familiar with the program told me after the breakfast that there is detailed language reacting to the new plan in the classified portion of the just-passed appropriations conference report. But, of course, since it's classified I did not get any details.

This source also argued that the Space Radar program should be taken from the black realm where it currently resides and be moved to the Air Force because the intelligence community -- particularly the NRO -- is just not competent enough to manage such a highly complex program: "Bottom line, I think it it is time to put Space Radar back in the Air Force. I've got to tell you the Air Force is better placed to handle this program than the NRO."

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