Differing Government Views on Satellite Imagery

According to the New York Times, there is a battle going on inside the U.S. Government. The battle is over the future of spy satellites and how to best ensure our government continues to have intelligence supremacy from space. In a story published late last month, the Times positions the contest taking place between the military who wants to use private companies and the intelligence community, who wants to control the imagery process.

The Obama Administration has proposed cutting the budget for commercial satellite imagery in half next year with support from the intelligence community. Not so fast says the military, which prefers commercial since it delivers more imagery for less cost. And with government development of new satellite systems historically being far more expensive than the private sector, it’s likely that doing less with commercial operators will actually increase costs to the taxpayer.

The Times likes to feature personalities in its business coverage, and this story is a good example. Director of national intelligence James Clapper Jr. is presented as leading the charge for government control of satellite surveillance, while retired General James Cartwright, former vice-chairman of the joint chiefs is portrayed as the commercial champion.

It’s exciting stuff to read, but some industry insiders have told SATCOM Frontier they believe the military/intelligence community schism is being overblown.

Despite the supposed rancor, we find this article very encouraging. Why? Because it shows that at least some in the U.S. military are open to acknowledging a bigger role for commercial operators in space.

That would not have been the case a few short years ago. Taking a fresh look at things is the first step necessary for change to occur. So let’s have the debate.