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Air Force leader discusses U.S. space program

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 26, 2004) -- The executive agent for space testified before the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces Feb. 25 on the status of America's space program.

Undersecretary of the Air Force Peter B. Teets, who is also the director of the National Reconnaissance Office, told committee members that he had five priorities for the national space effort in 2004.

Gen. Lance W. Lord (left), commander of Air Force Space Command, and Peter B. Teets, undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, testified at the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on strategic forces. Mr. Teets outlined his five priorities for the national space effort in 2004. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gary R. Coppage.

Those efforts, he said, included:

• Achieving mission success in operations and acquisition.

• Developing and maintaining a team of space professionals.

• Integrating space capabilities for national intelligence and warfighting.

• Producing solutions for challenging national security problems.

• Ensuring freedom of action in space.

"These priorities have shaped the fiscal 2005 budget for our space programs and I see substantial improvements in capabilities in every mission area as we re-capitalize our space assets in the years ahead," Mr. Teets told committee members. "The funding requested in the president's budget allows us to evolve capabilities while planned investments in new systems will provide significant increases in performance, supporting the full range of intelligence and military operations to include the global war on terrorism."

The United States is pursuing two major initiatives as part of its space program, Mr. Teets told committee members. The first is the transformational communications architecture, which will be made possible by the Transformational Communications Satellite.

Mr. Teets said that satellite will greatly improve the level of communications experienced by warfighters on the ground.

"The TSAT will be a revolutionary change in satellite communications for the warfighter and for national intelligence users," Mr. Teets said. "It allows our fighting forces to have near real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at their fingertips and provides unprecedented connectivity with Internet-like capability that extends the global information grid to deployed and mobile users worldwide."

Mr. Teets said he expects the first satellite to be launched in 2011.

The second major initiative of the U.S. space program is development of space-based radar. The SBR program will provide persistent surveillance, on demand. That means the ability to see nearly anywhere on Earth, at any time day or night, through clouds or sand storms, Mr. Teets said.

"Since radar has the unique capability of being able to see through clouds, to be able to image or do surface moving target indications at night, you can see the effects that you can achieve by having some persistence in your surveillance activities," Mr. Teets said. "That is the big driving factor behind the desire to have a SBR capability."

Also discussed during the testimony was the development and implementation of a new space systems acquisition program, now under Air Force Space Command, and the status of the space-based infrared system. The SBIRS is designed to be a follow on to the defense support program, a series of satellites used to detect strategic missile attacks.