Pentagon Not Yet Concerned Over NASA Changes


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told House defense appropriators March 24 that they were not yet aware of specific concerns within the Pentagon over ramifications stemming from proposed changes at NASA.Pressed by new defense spending subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) about Pentagon concerns already voiced, both Gates and Mullen said they were not yet aware of particular concerns over heavy-lift rockets or the industrial base if the Obama administration’s plans for the civilian space agency take hold. Gates said nothing specific had been brought to his attention yet.Mullen did mention, however, that he and other defense officials have had longstanding concerns over the space industrial base, much the same way they do for shipbuilding. Like with warships, the admiral said there is consensus that the Defense Department is paying too much for old systems when it comes to space assets.“As fiscal pressures increase, our ability to build future weapon systems will be impacted by decreasing modernization budgets as well as mergers and acquisitions,” Mullen further said in his prepared testimony. “We properly focus now on near-term reset requirements. However, we may face an eroding ability to produce and support advanced technology systems. Left unchecked, this trend would impact warfighting readiness. The department, our industry leaders, and the Congress need to begin considering how to equip and sustain the military we require after our contemporary wars come to an end.” But Dicks did not seem satisfied. “This is something you both ought to look at,” the congressman said of the NASA ramifications.

Brett Lambert, Pentagon industrial policy director, and Gary Payton, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for space, both are on public record with their concerns (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 8).

In addition to its review of the civilian space program conducted in the run-up to the Fiscal 2011 budget request, released Feb. 1, the administration also is conducting a broader interagency review of U.S. space policy under the aegis of the National Security Council.

Gates told appropriators that the Pentagon’s own Space Posture Review (SPR) is expected within months. It was once expected by the 2011 request, but it and the Nuclear Posture Review were prolonged so the year-old administration could keep working them, officials have said. The NPR is due out this month.

By Michael Bruno/Aviation Week


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