Senate Intelligence Committee approves intel authorization bill

congressThe U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence unanimously approved a bill to reauthorize the nation’s intelligence programs for 2016. The legislation includes an amendment, drafted by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and co-sponsored by Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI), to require a comprehensive approach to the overhead satellite architecture that supports U.S. intelligence programs.

“This bill sends a strong message that we need to have a strategy for our space architecture that safeguards our national security by taking advantage of cutting-edge technology,” said Sen. Warner. “The U.S. is in danger of losing our technological edge due to our current overreliance on a big-government acquisition model. Our current approach to overhead satellites is increasingly unsustainable due to growing costs, long design time, lack of competition, and an inability to take advantage of rapid innovation in the private sector. Given the cost of maintaining our satellite infrastructure and the dangers and constraints imposed by the threat of anti-satellite weapons, our space infrastructure will be stronger and more efficient if it integrates the commercial satellite industry along with defense and intelligence capabilities.”

Warner’s amendment recognizes that space is no longer an uncontested environment, as it once was, and that the U.S. must be open to innovative solutions such as distributed, disaggregated architectures that could allow for better resiliency against the space threat, and also allow for ready reconstitution, constant replenishment, and frequent technological refresh. Moreover, the current cost-constrained budget environment dictates that the U.S. cannot ignore the costs of systems and must be open to potentially less expensive alternatives that include the commercial satellite industry.

Warner’s amendment requires the Director of National Intelligence, the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to develop a strategy – with milestones and benchmarks – to ensure that the nation’s satellite architecture meets the nation’s needs in peace- and war-time; responsibly stewards the taxpayers’ dollars; accurately takes into account cost- and performance tradeoffs of the architecture; meets realistic requirements; produces and fosters excellence, innovation and competition; produces innovative satellite systems in under five years that can leverage common, standardized design elements and commercially-available technologies; takes advantage of rapid advances in commercial technology, innovation and commercial-like acquisition practices; and fosters competition and a robust industrial base.


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