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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

Aerospace Daily November 13, 2001

Senate Intelligence panel plans to scrutinize MASINT next year

By Marc Selinger

Measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) will likely receive significant attention when lawmakers consider the fiscal 2003 intelligence authorization bill in calendar year 2002, according to Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham (D-Fla.).

During Senate consideration Nov. 8 of the FY '02 intelligence authorization bill, Graham said his committee is eagerly awaiting the completion of a study on the Intelligence Community's MASINT capabilities. Navy Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), is heading the study, which is required by the FY '01 intelligence authorization act. Although the report was due April 1, 2001, Graham said Wilson has assured him that the study will be done in time for the Intelligence Committee to consider it as part of its work on the FY '03 intelligence authorization bill. The study is expected to include recommendations for "building a robust MASINT capability," Graham said.

"We expect that rebuilding our MASINT capability will be a priority item in next year's legislation," Graham added.

MASINT, which comes from observing the scientific features of moving targets, is a relatively new form of intelligence and has received less public attention from policymakers than other forms of intelligence. But with the military's increasing reliance on smart weapons and with the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the systems for delivering them, MASINT is expected to grow in importance.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, which analyzes defense and intelligence issues, told The DAILY Nov. 12 that MASINT activities lack the coordination and visibility they need because they are spread across countless agencies. He said the Central MASINT Organization (CMO), which is charged with managing MASINT for the Intelligence Community, is "stuck in the bowels of DIA."

Pike argued that the U.S. should consolidate its MASINT activities in a single agency, just as it transferred the imagery intelligence functions of several agencies to a new National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) in 1996. "MASINT is vastly more balkanized than imagery was" before the creation of NIMA, he said. "MASINT is scattered to the four winds."

The FY '01 intelligence authorization act requires a study of options for improving the management and organization of MASINT, including creating a centralized tasking, processing, exploitation and dissemination facility. Options for recapitalizing and reconfiguring existing MASINT systems are also to be examined.

Copyright 2001 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.