Transterrestrial Musings

Defend Free Speech!

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type 4.0
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« "When Good Men Did Nothing" | Main | Space Advice For Obama »

The Military Space Mess

The other day I pointed out a report on the general military acquisition problems. Today at The Space Review, Dwayne Day discusses the military space problem in particular. As he notes, Pentagon space makes NASA look like a model of efficiency. NASA at least has the excuse that what it does isn't really important. The same is not true of our defense systems, but the bureaucracy and porkmeisters act as though it is.


0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The Military Space Mess.

TrackBack URL for this entry:


tps wrote:

One question I've had about military space is how 'black' does it really need to be? Of course showing what the capabilities of the various systems can do or, depending on the system, pictures of it would be wrong. But a total refusal to say anything is getting a little silly when as soon as the rocket lifts off various websites give a good idea of the payload depending on the orbit, altitude, etc. Even the configuration of the rocket gives clues too.

Has anyone figured out why they won't release the KH-9 or even some of the older KH-11 image results? When you can go to GoogleMaps and see what the 'civilian' cameras can do it seems a bit silly.

A little light on the black might help matters.

Dennis Wingo wrote:

There is a great article in IEEE Spectrum about the entire procurement mess.

Michael wrote:

"One question I've had about military space is how 'black' does it really need to be?"

The question is generally not what it is doing. The question is how well is it doing it.

Maybe we are as good as Google. Maybe not as good. Maybe better. Want to bet?

A number of years ago a military satellite was launched on shuttle. After shuttle landed the bloody satellite exploded on orbit. There was a boom and a flash and debris.

It always struck me as kind of strange.

How do you hide a satellite in plain sight?

tps wrote:

"How do you hide a satellite in plain sight?"

That was the goal of the 'Misty' program.

Carl Pham wrote:

One question I've had about military space is how 'black' does it really need to be?

What, so Congress can debate it in sound bites on the evening news with the enthusiastic involvement of the MeetUp generation? I think bombs are so icky, you never know who's going to be blown up. Why don't we just pass a law banning war? Oh, right, those stupid Republicans. Well, President Obama can just issue an Executive Order. Problem solved!

How's the public debate worked out for the various pieces of the "War on Terror"? Bleagh.

If it would prevent bullshit demagogue micromanagement by an incompetent and showboating Congress, I'm all in favor of even more of the budget being black.

I'm not especially worried about waste in military procurement, anyway. I don't want a military that's as cheap as possible, I want one that is as deadly as possible. Generally, if you want the best of anything, you have to pay exorbitantly, "waste" money on princely salaries for the people who provide it. So I'm OK with waste, up to a point, as long as they (the military) continue to demonstrate an ability to totally whip any other nation, or subnational group of crazies.

I'm a great believer in performance measurements, of tying future appropriations to past performance. But I'm unenthused about the periodic cry of waste in military spending, in which we propose to debate the Pentagon's spending $600 hammer line by $1,500 toilet seat item. Let's get back to that when the other 70% of the Federal budget makes any kind of sense, or contributes to the national prosperity in a way proportional to its cost.

Rand Simberg wrote:

Carl, you miss the point of the post and the article to which it links. It's not about spending too much money, or the procurement being "inefficient."

It's about spending too much money and getting little or nothing for it in return, in terms of defense. It is about an utter failure of the military space procurement system. It's broken, and we are correspondingly in danger, and no one seems to be fixing it (and this is especially unlikely to change in an Obama administration).

Anon wrote:

I don't think it's classification, these agencies degraded from a time when they were MORE black. I think it is simply the loss of capability due to crippling loss of key personnel.

I also think it's about to happen again.

The single base cause for this degradation is that in the 90s, the defense department contracted without any guidance about how to do it. Any institution that goes through that doesn't improve.

Agencies were given employment goals to meet and told to get there. Many employees were treated like unwelcome guests and they politely left. This meant that a lot of people were put into jobs for which they were not prepared.

I worked for an agency (not the NRO) where the senior people were as much as told that they were no longer needed and it would be proper for them to hurry up and retire already.

That was an easy hint for them to take and they took it. A key senior person in the past might give a year or more notice for an orderly transition of responsibilities. I know of one person who walked into a conference room and said, "I quit. I'll mail in my badge." Most were civil enough to give 2 weeks.

As an engineer in my twenties, I took the hint too and quit. There was no way I was going to spend a career with government pay only to have it end that way. Many others of my age did the same.

Many mid/upper-level people stayed because, they were under the government's older retirement plan which rewards 20 years of service. I was under the new plan, Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is essentially a 401K. It was easy for me to take my ball and leave.

Today many, many more people are under the TSP plan. They will be on the lookout for the same idiocy that occurred in the 90s and they will not hang around for it. They will not pay attention to the assurances of witless morons who suggest it's part of a deep plan.

It's not a matter of fixing a problem. There isn't a constellation of policies that will get things on track. It's a matter of rebuilding from the damage done in the 90s. That has been going on to some extent but I doubt it will continue.

Leave a comment

Note: The comment system is functional, but timing out when returning a response page. If you have submitted a comment, DON'T RESUBMIT IT IF/WHEN IT HANGS UP AND GIVES YOU A "500" PAGE. Simply click your browser "Back" button to the post page, and then refresh to see your comment.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on November 10, 2008 6:09 AM.

"When Good Men Did Nothing" was the previous entry in this blog.

Space Advice For Obama is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.1