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Feinstein Slams New Spy Sats

UPDATED: Congressional Aide Says Huge Fight On Between Senate Intel Committee and IC, DoD Over EO System. It May Get Killed. IC Source Rebuts Feinstein.

The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence expressed "extraordinarily serious concern" that the intelligence community and Pentagon may repeat the disaster of the Future Imagery Architecture system and made clear to Gates that there is bipartisan support on her committee for questioning the electro-optical system President Barack Obama recently approved.

"We have extraordinarily serious concerns involving the waste of many, many dollars over a period of years and are rather determined it not happen again," said Sen. Diane Feinstein, who is also a member of the Senate Appropriation defense subcommittee. Feinstein said she and Sen. Kit Bond, a Republican who shares the same committee assignments, shares her concerns about the EO system.

"We also have information that the lesser tier can also be as capable and have a stealth capability," Feinstein said.

An intelligence community source familiar with the technical issues at issue rejected Feinstein's claims. "I think there are no real shortcuts to high performance although such claims are made. I really think you should point out that the 'exquisite' proposal is just the fifth updating of a system flown for 33 years," the source said.

A congressional aide contacted after the hearing said there is a "huge philosophical difference raging" between members of the Sneate intel committee and the intelligence community. This aide said the Senate body is convinced that the lesser system could handle much of what needs doing and is concerned that "that the last few percent [in improvements] drive the large costs."

Enormous quantities of cash are at stake in this debate since the best estimates I've heard for the exquisite system indicate it will suck up at least $10 billion over the next three to five years.

Feinstein said technical advisors to her committee had said the lower resolution system could do the job just as well as the exquisite system.

Gates said he had approved the exquisite system because it is "needed by the intelligence community." But he also conceded that he approved the lower tier system "because there is some schedule and technical risk associated with the upper tier."

Feinstein made clear she did not want to see a repeat of the FIA fiasco: "To make a mistake once or twice is alright, but to continue to make that mistake does not make sense."

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