Friday, May 04, 2007

Tug of War, Part II

Seventeen months ago, we noted an emerging battle between the Air Force and the Defense Intelligence Agency in the realm of missile analysis. For years, the Air Force's National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), located at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, led the analysis of medium and long-range ballistic missiles, defined as those with a range of 1,000 kilometers or more. Short-range missiles remained the province of the DIA's Missile and Space Intelligence Center (located in Huntsville, Alabama).

As we observed back in October 2005, DIA had proposed a realignment of responsibilities in certain areas--including ballistic missiles--under its Defense Intelligence Analysis Program (DIAP). Under that proposal, MSIC would assume greater responsibilities in analyzing medium and long-range missiles, at the expense of the Air Force--and NASIC.

Understandably, the Air Force didn't like that idea. Not only had NASIC become the recognized leader in the analysis of longer-ranged missiles, there was also the perception that DIA had a "dog in the fight." With MSIC a part of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Air Force was concerned that any realignment would favor the agency--and its own missile intelligence center.

Sure enough, DIA apparently circulated a classified memorandum last year that blurred analytical responsibilities, giving MSIC an opportunity to assume a great role in long-range missile work. Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, who served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, successfully fought to delay implementation of that memo.

But, last November, Senator DeWine was defeated in his bid for a third term by Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown. Now, there's a belief by Ohio lawmakers that DIA--and their friends in the Alabama congressional delegation--are pressing ahead on the realignment issue. DIA (and MSIC) have a powerful ally in Alabama Senator Richard C. Shelby, who (not surprisingly) is a long-time advocate of the Huntsville organization, which features a center named for--you guessed it--Senator Shelby.

Members of the Ohio delegation--including Senator Brown--have sent a letter to the DIA Director, Lt Gen Michael Maples, expressing concern about MSIC's growing role in missile analysis. Senator Brown signed the letter, but he has little prior experience in defense or intelligence matters. And on this issue, Brown has not demonstrated the leadership or understanding of Mike DeWine.

Why does this matter? As Ohio Congressman Dave Hobson told the Dayton Daily News, the kind of capability that exists at NASIC can't be replicated overnight, and many of that organization's missile analysts would prefer to do that job in Ohio. More importantly, the existing "division of labor" in missile analysis worked quite well, as demonstrated during North Korea's Tapeodong 2 test launch. NASIC analysts led the community in predicting (and analyzing) the event, winning plaudits for their work.

MSIC's expansion into long-range missile analysis is little more than a power grab, the kind of turf battle that's grown increasingly common in the BRAC era. With money (and hundreds of jobs) at stake, intelligence organizations are trying to position themselves for the long haul and keep their focus relevant, even if it means poaching on someone else's territory. Unfortunately, such moves also detract from the analytical mission, forcing the same organizations to justify their expertise--or defend their expansion--when they ought to be focusing on their real mission, analyzing the threat posed by enemy missile systems.

From what we can gather, this battle is far from over. And, with the prospect of hundreds of jobs--and millions in tax revenue--potentially leaving Ohio, some voters in the Buckeye State may wish they had re-elected Mike DeWine last November.

1 comment:

A DC reader said...

While MSIC has, over the last several years, attempted to move functions from NASIC to Huntsville, the effort took on a new emphasis following the defeat of former Senator Mike DeWine in last November’s election. Insiders state that contractors that work closely with MSIC were called to a meeting with some of the Alabama Delegation shortly after the November election and informed that MSIC efforts to acquire missions areas from NASIC would be expanded to include areas other than ballistic missiles.

One of these areas targeted for acquisition is another NASIC core mission - the analysis of threats to US satellites systems and operations (called counterspace threat inside the government). NASIC has been the recognized intelligence community leader in the counterspace threat mission area since the mid 1990s.

Over the last six months, the Defense Intelligence Agency has begun to move portions of NASIC’s counterspace threat mission to other defense intelligence organizations – most notably MSIC. The same concerns and points raised in the letter to LtGen Maples by Ohio Congressional members regarding NASIC ballistic missile work have also be discussed in both open and closed Congressional committee hearings related to the counterspace threat mission area. (For example, see the transcript for the HASC Strategic Forces Subcommittee Hearing for Friday, March 23, 2007 – 9:00 am – 2212 Rayburn on Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Budget Request and the status of space activities – specifically Congressman Turner’s questions.)

NASIC was the agency briefing Legislative and Executive Branch members before the events of Jan 11th, as well as countless times since then.

As is the case for the ballistic missile analysis battle, DIA's motivations are not based on NASIC's performance, expertise, or capabilities, but based on political nepotism. (By the way, NASIC has over 50 people working counterspace FULLTIME, while MSIC has less than 10). Given the contested nature of space and the absolutely critical nature of US space systems to US national interests, this proposed movement of counterspace intelligence responsiblities is extremely dangerous and could lead to one or more major intelligence failures.