Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spy vs Spy

Today I read this at chicagotribune.com :

Obama administration approves new spy satellite program, buying more commercial imagery

PAMELA HESS Associated Press Writer
6:53 PM CDT, April 7, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Tuesday approved the purchase of pricey new spy satellites and will buy more commercial imagery from the private sector to plug immediate gaps in satellite coverage.

The new program will take the place of one that had been awarded to The Boeing Co. The Pentagon canceled that project in 2005 because it was grossly over budget and behind schedule.

An intelligence official, who spoke to reporters shortly after the White House approved the program, said the new spy satellites would offer the same capability of those now in use. Officials were concerned that significant changes in their design could break the budget for the program or delay the launch of the satellites, he said.

The official, who spoke only on the condition that his name not be used, declined to reveal the budget for the program.

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has already complained about the price tag, which he put at more than $10 billion. The official said that figure is incorrect but would not offer an alternative.

The official would also not specify how many spy satellites would be built or when they would be launched. He said officials believed it would be soon enough to plug any gaps left by the 2005 cancellation.

However, military, intelligence and industry officials familiar with the program told The Associated Press last week that the program is called "2-plus-2" and calls for building two sophisticated satellites equal to or better than the huge, high-resolution secret satellites now in orbit. The officials all spoke anonymously because the details of the program are classified.

At the same time, the White House has also agreed to boost the amount of commercial imagery it buys. It now spends $25 million a month with DigitalGlobe of Longmont, Colo., and GeoEye of Dulles, Va., buying private imagery that can show outlines of objects as small as 16 inches.

The new contract will be large enough to pay for the construction and launch of two new commercial satellites with the same capabilities as those now on orbit. The new contract will include "guaranteed access"— that is, top priority and the ability to direct the satellites if there is a war or another emergency.

The commercial contract will be negotiated in the coming weeks, the intelligence official said.

Defense giant Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., is almost certain to win the secret multibillion-dollar contract for the two new high-altitude spy satellites. It built the spacecraft now in orbit that will be roughly duplicated in the "2-plus-2" program.

The intelligence official acknowledged the possibility that the massive contract could be awarded this year to Lockheed without a competitive bidding process.

Only Boeing has the facilities to build and test a massive satellite. Boeing, headquartered in Chicago, was the prime contractor on the satellite program canceled in 2005.

Boeing spent nearly $10 billion developing the secret satellite but ran into technical problems. The Pentagon pulled the plug after Boeing exceeded its budget by $3 billion to $5 billion, according to industry experts and government reports.

In adopting "2-plus-2," National intelligence Director Dennis Blair and Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected an alternate satellite proposal from military officials at the Pentagon. The uniformed military favored developing and launching a new class of satellites that would be able to observe targets with better resolution than their commercial counterparts, but would be faster and cheaper to produce than the spy satellites approved by the White House.

The intelligence official said Tuesday at the press conference that officials had determined that the alternate satellites would not have met either military or intelligence needs.

The "2-plus-2" program is meant to avert a potential gap in U.S. imagery satellite coverage around the world. The sophisticated spy satellites now in orbit are nearing the end of their service life, and replacements must be launched in the next decade to prevent blind spots.

The plan will have to win congressional approval. A second intelligence official said the administration is confident it will pass.

The Defense Department spends about $20 billion annually on space programs

I say:

I am tossed on this. I want the US to be at the top of our game in all areas and certainly in the areas of technology and espionage, but do I want to fiance the invasion of my own backyard? I might want to swim buck naked and I would hate to inflict that on strangers.

Moot point really though.I think the concept of privacy is no longer an issue. We already lost that battle. "Privacy, I didn't know you had any privacy!" We are under surveliance almost everywhere we go.

Oh, what the heck, lets buy some new toys and keep the playing field even or even grab the advantage. I am not really bothered by the expense. We give it away like candy, might as well get good use from it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

White House Blasts Rocket Launch

North Korea is a problem and we need to do something about them now.

I read in the Wall Street Journal today:

White House Blasts Rocket Launch

The Obama administration blasted North Korea's decision to launch a rocket this weekend in defiance of United Nations resolutions and vowed a coordinated international response.
"The United States believes that this action is best dealt with, the most appropriate response, would be a United Nations Security Council resolution," said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., during an interview on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. Ms. Rice said she would attend an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting being convened on Sunday afternoon to discuss an international response to the North Korea launch.
"We view North Korea as a proliferation threat," she said. "Its actions today underscore our concern about its development of not only a nuclear weapons capability, but the capability to deliver it. That's what we're most concerned about preventing."
North Korea launched a multi-stage rocket on Sunday morning, which apparently failed in its goal of putting a satellite into space. The rocket flew successfully for about 13 minutes but plunged into the Pacific Ocean as the second of its three stages was firing, officials in Japan, South Korea and the U.S. said.
Ms. Rice declined to say what U.N. actions or potential sanctions the U.S. might be willing to support, but said U.S. officials were working closely with foreign officials, particularly those in Asia.