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Space Radar Loses 2010 Funding

When Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave his budget presentation he made a point of saying several times that there were classified program decisions that would affect the budget. It's happening already.

Details on this are quite sparse since the programs involved and their budgets are classified, but sources who follow this world say that Space Radar, one of the most hyped and troubled efforts the national security community has ever tried to launch, has lost all the funding that DoD tried to put aside for it in 2010.

Is this simply a case of the military deciding that Space Radar is still too great a technical risk and is still beset by seemingly endless conflicts between the intelligence community and the military over its requirements? Or was this money stripped to help pay for a new electro-optical (EO) spy satellite constellation President Obama approved on April 7. This EO program will cost roughly $10 billion, with perhaps $3 billion of that money being spent in the next two years.

A congressional source said the money was taken from Space Radar to help pay for the new system. However, an intelligence community source said it would be too blunt to say that the Pentagon took money from the radar program to pay for the electro-optical satellites. It would be more accurate to say that the Pentagon has tilted to electro-optical capabilities and away from Space Radar.

Under Pete Teets, following the famous Rumsfeld Commission on space, the Air Force and intelligence community embarked on a sometimes passionate, but ultimately fruitless course of trying to build a Space Radar system that would meet the needs of both the military and of the intelligence community. But the physics were daunting and the conflicting requirements just could not be reconciled at a cost the country could afford. The National Reconnaissance Office announced the cancellation of the program early last year. It appears to have died again.

But support for the capability Space Radar could provide is strong among senior military officers and will doubtless rise again unless Pentagon plans to buy space radar data from Canada, Germany or Israel demonstrate that the failure of America to maintain the industrial base to build such capabilities has been a fair trade for the electro-optical spy satellites.

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