Custom Fit

National security space programs have suffered delays and cost overruns in recent years partly because they have too many customers, and greater success could be found by narrowing the scope of some programs. That’s the view of Gen. Robert Kehler, head of Air Force Space Command, who spoke at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles on Nov. 21. “One size does not fit all,” Kehler said, noting that the long-term intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance needs of national policymakers often conflict with the needs of military operators involved in day-to-day fight, often involving fast-moving tactical situations. The struggle to reconcile the divergent requirements of the two interests on single satellites takes time, frequent redesigns and, ultimately, a lot more money. Kehler thinks separate programs, individually tailored to the needs of each user, would speed the process. He also thinks freezing designs, getting them on orbit, and incrementally improving subsequent platforms would provide capability faster and at lower cost. “We need to deploy space systems at the ‘speed of need,’” and not at a pace governed by an unending requirements churn, Kehler said. He added that he’s not against the integration of the products of the space infrastructure, but sees value in keeping “black” and “white” (secret and open) systems segregated. Acquisition problems arise when “we continue to force” convergence of dissimilar requirements, he said.