1.16.2004

POLITICS - Moon Patrol, Continued

I've already mentioned my skepticism of the Bush Space Plan. It will hand more control of NASA to the military, and these Mars/Moon plans will get killed by Congress.

The current issue of the Austin Chronicle has a great article, by William Adler, detailing the future of US nuclear ballistics. He linked to the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review, something that I remember skimming sometime last year when debating the Iraq war.

So I re-read the document, thinking about this new proposal from Bush. (Keep in mind that the space proposal creates a new commission, chaired by a former Secretary of the Air Force, that directly advises the President on future NASA programs. NASA will now report directly to the President, as well.)

In the Nuclear Posture Review, there is a section titled DoD Infrastructure issues.

"DOD has identified shortfalls in current infrastructure sustainment programs far nuclear platforms. These include the following: solid rocket motor design, development and testing; technology for current and future strategic systems; improved surveillance and assessment capabilities; command and control platforms and systems; and design, development, and production of radiation-hardened parts." (p. 30)


I believe that NASA's resources could be applied in all of those categories, and patch up some Defense "shortfalls".

Under the section titled Ballistic Missile Defense, subsection Intelligence, we find these entries:

"To provide continuous and persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of critical regions, the Department proposes to develop in its FY03-07 FYDP a "system of systems that consists of space, airborne, surface, and subsurface capabilities. Sensors for this system will include a mix of phenomenology, allow for agile and flexible response, and operate across the electro-magnetic spectrum." (p. 28)

"New concepts for persistent surveillance - from air- and space-based platforms - including hyper-spectral imaging, are proposed in the FY03 budget. (ibid).


Given enough resources, the Defense Department could patch its infrastructure and develop these programs on its own. Given enough resources, that is. Today, they might be stretched thin by the past two wars, in addition to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

To drive this all home, go read this article from 2002 that foreshadows this discussion.

Civilian interests under NASA are bowing to the new realities of the military setting the agenda. NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe revealed that the agency's top budget priority for fiscal 2003 will be to spend close to $1 billion in nuclear propulsion, exploring both radioisotope thermal generators such as those used for Cassini, as well as possible mini-reactors for deep-space missions. O'Keefe, a former Navy secretary and Pentagon comptroller, also reiterated how well NASA had served the Pentagon in providing imagery for the Afghan war, such as SeaWiFS and Terra spacecraft images provided to the Navy. O'Keefe said that NASA was looking forward to providing agency resources for the "war on terror."
[..]
The few European attendees at Space Symposium were showing noticeable unease at the level of chutzpah coming from military space leaders. Jeff Harris, a former NRO director who now is deputy of Lockheed's Space Systems Company, said that the U.S. now must act regularly in a pre-emptive and proactive way around the globe, using space-based resources for local skirmishes. He said that the U.S. military should make all potential adversaries "unquestionably afraid of U.S. capabilities."

While O'Keefe of NASA made some nominal gestures toward internationalism, particularly for keeping a multinational role active in the International Space Station, Teets made sure not to talk of NATO or burden-sharing or anything else that smacked of multilateralism. He said that the U.S. should be proud of its unilateral capabilities, and should exploit "our space supremacy, our space dominance, to achieve warfighting success."


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