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Space

Subject:      Former D/NRO on NRO management practices
From:         thomsona@netcom.com (Allen Thomson)
Date:         1995/11/30
Message-Id:   <thomsonaDIvr3I.Mx1@netcom.com>
Newsgroups:   sci.space.policy,alt.politics.org.cia

    Here's the promised section on NRO management practices from 
John McLucas' paper at a recent (US)AF Historical Foundation 
symposium.  Mr. McLucas was D/NRO in the early 70s. 
   Space Policy - A Personal Assessment
   by John L. McLucas
   Given at the Session on The U.S. Military Space 
   Program Since 1961
   USAF Air Force Historical Foundation
   Symposium on Space
   Andrews Air Force Base
   September 21-22, 1995
   [excerpted with author's permission]
   ...NRO's Corona program was giving us the knowledge necessary for 
   the high-level policy discussions on just where we stood vis-a-
   vis the Soviet threat.  We could pursue our ICBM and FBM [SLBM]
   programs with confidence that we were not being hopelessly 
   outdone by the Russians.  Because of NRO's special classified 
   treatment, not as many people had access to its products as 
   would have been desirable, so there were both good and bad 
   effects of creating something called NRO.
   Creation of the NRO in 1961 at the end of the Eisenhower term 
   established a de facto separate space activity to which various 
   layers of the military had only limited access.  The NRO modus 
   oprandi developed a technique of streamlined procurement which 
   was worthwhile in its own right.  But it also bifurcated the 
   military space program, taking a huge bite out of total space 
   activity and shrinking the amount of space work still under 
   normal military development procedures and control.  I believe 
   that this arrangement -- while accomplishing its main purpose of 
   expediting space intelligence gathering -- had a lot to do with 
   turning off many senior Air Force military from spending enough 
   thought, time, energy and effort on what space had to offer the 
   regular Air Force.
   The NRO has always been controversial.  About two years ago I 
   wrote a paper on "Lessons Learned through Thirty Years of NRO 
   Management".  Before writing it, I canvassed several senior Air 
   Force officials to get their views on the advantages and 
   disadvantages of having created the NRO when we did.  By and 
   large, they supported the need for the NRO but cited several 
   serious disadvantages to having done what we did.  The summary 
   list follows.
   Good features of NRO:
   1. Ability to move swiftly
   2. Stable budgets and generally well-managed programs within 
      budgets (smaller overruns)
   3. Ability to offset AF tendency to short-change space programs
   4. Staffing continuity, good corporate memory
   5. Limited visibility to nay-sayers, thus achieving efficiency
   6. Generally high quality people
   7. Loyalty of staff: many people stayed with the program at the 
      cost of promotions
   8. Staff included multi-service representation, providing 
      benefits to other services
   9. Some progress on TENCAP (tactical exploitation of national 
      capabilities)
   Not-so-good or negative features of NRO
   1. Split space program when unified program would have been 
      better (conceptually)
   2. Allowed CIA to dominate collection activities including 
      building hardware
   3. Frequently overclassified work, resulting in too little 
      distribution of results
   4. Hamstrung AF learning how to apply space assets to tactical 
      needs
   5. Bred jealousy and negative attitudes in some key AF people
   6. Some viewed NRO as extravagant with too easy access to funds
   While there were many good results from creating NRO, especially 
   in its success at delivering the necessary intelligence to its 
   customers, it obviously was not all positive.  The pros and cons 
   of NRO management practices and NRO procurement procedures 
   versus standard Air Force practice have not, in my view, ever 
   been properly debated and resolved.
   I understand John Deutch had plans to conduct such a review 
   before he changed jobs to head the CIA.  It remains to be seen 
   whether he or anyone else will take an initiative to change the 
   NRO.  (The subject has come up in recent discussions about 
   reorganizing space responsibilities and decisions to create a 
   space architect but I know of no pending review.)



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