Mr. Keith Hall Interview with Aerospace Reporters - Pentagon 30 April 1997

This will be on the record.

I just thought I'd say a few things at the onset and I anticipate that you'd probably want to ask me a few questions and I won't go on very long.

When I came to the NRO last year, I had three objectives. One was to get the financial house in order; after all that's what brought me to the NRO, problems on the financial side. The second was to cement the important strategic relationships with key players; those players are our customers, the Congress, and those that oversee the NRO such as DCI staff, OSD, OMB and so forth. And the third objective, and I think the most important one, was to posture the NRO for the future. It had gone through a period of some consolidation following the Cold War--making modifications to systems that had been built with the Cold War in mind, but did not really have well formed plans in my view for what it needed for the post-Cold War world in the way of satellite architecture and so forth. I wanted to posture the organization for those missions from the programmatic point of view and I also wanted to take a hard look at how it did its business in this new environment.

The third objective that I had was--that was the third objective. I just want to elaborate on those three points. I think on the financial side our problems relative to our overseers are behind us. We made commitments on the amount of funding that we would maintain our program for adequate execution purposes and we have met those commitments in our 97 budget that is now on the Hill and we close the year below the levels that Congress said we could have; and the same in the out years. In addition, we've taken numerous steps to have a light shine on all of our financial activities. We now conduct Quarterly Execution Reviews at the NRO of our financial execution and at those reviews are representatives from John Hamre's office, OMB, and from the DCI staff so they get to see the same data that I get to see executing our programs. I think that has done a lot to restore confidence their confidence, that they (a) are getting the information that they need and (b) that we're reviewing the information that's pertinent for these type questions.

There is still some more to go. When I came to the organization, there were basically three different financial systems in place that--was really part of the problem. I'm trying to come up with a coherent overall picture. We had Navy, Air Force, and CIA financing information systems that were being used. We have moved now to a single system using band aids and baling wire in order to take the best practices across those three and put together for the 97 execution year a single picture of the NRO.

But our long term fix will hopefully be turned on this October 1st. We have to do this at the beginning of the fiscal year. That is a commercial off-the-shelf financial management package which, when we get through the whole year of execution in 98, will give us full compliance with all of the (ordinary) standards that you need. So, I think that this problem is behind us, at least as I look at the number of auditors out at Westfields on any given day is much fewer than it was back this time last year when there were hundreds and hundreds climbing all over the place.

On the second front, taking a look at our strategic relationships, I now think that we've taken some steps to clarify the relations we have with Congress. When I first got in, I was getting a nasty-gram a week from one of the Congressional committees complaining about one thing or another; those seemed to have stopped. It's not to say that we don't have our controversies with the Congress, but we handle them in a more mainstream way; them asking questions and us answering them without asking whether it's going to my bosses and so forth. We also have done a lot working with customers.

I have designated a new organization in the NRO--the Deputy Director for National Support--to basically create two focal points in the NRO or two major customer sets which are the national customer base, which includes the CIA and State Department, and the non-defense related customers that use our data; and then the existing Deputy Director for Military Support,which handles all of our military support.

And on that front, on the military side, I've also taken further steps to reach out to the military services. I think the NRO had been doing a pretty good job with the joint staff and the unified commands, but we had not been hooked up all that closely,in my opinion, to the military services where we needed to be working, particularly as it relates to their future plans on weapons systems and what data might those weapons systems need,what formats, and so forth that the NRO would be capable of providing. So, and I've already mentioned that with respect to our overseers, we've made that part of our internal financial processing, so I think from that second category, that second goal, we have made some marked progress. I'm in the process of meeting with each of the chiefs personally to brief them on the NRO, to make it clear that the NRO needs to be part of the fight in the future in terms of delivering capabilities for air operations, ground operations, naval operations, and so forth. I've already had General Fogleman out to the NRO and his entire staff on a separate day. We have General Krulak coming in June and we'll be meeting with Army and Navy later on and I'm trying to schedule those as soon as possible.

The third area, posturing the NRO for the future, I'll just highlight a couple of things, and we're going to give you a copy of the unclassified Jeremiah Panel Report when you leave. I asked Admiral Dave Jeremiah as you know last year to go into this department and review the NRO and he gave us recommendations that the DCI and Secretary of Defense subsequently approved on a number of fronts. Number one was a new mission for the organization which you'll see in the packet that we give you which focuses on information superiority in all the NRO's playing at, both from the standpoint of a variety of data sources that we collect information, to support operations and so forth. But,also unique engineering skills that the organization has for large scale systems engineering that can be brought to bear upon diverse information sets together in ways that might better empower users. The Defense Science Board has recently pointed out that we probably can overwhelm customers with information; trying to make the information usable on the timeline that they have, I guess that is probably a big challenge. And so the Jeremiah Panel gave us a new mission. It gave me the focus that I needed to rearrange the customer support organization within the NRO as I just described.

It said we needed to take a hard look at our acquisition practices and look for ways of returning to more streamlined acquisition practices and a variety of other things that you'll see in the report. That was the first thing.

The second thing that we've done is in each of our major business areas which as you know includes imagery, signals intelligence, and several other areas; we now have plans or concepts that we are working that aims that capabilities into the middle of the next decade and resources that we have freed up to begin working on. I've always said that the NRO needs to be working on three systems simultaneously, the ones that we're flying, the ones we're buying and they ones we're "eyeing," as I call it, for the future. And I think that this time last year the organization was pretty well situated with respect to flying and buying, a little bit weak on what we were eyeing for the future. I think that now we've closed that problem.

And then the last thing I'll mention and then we'll go into questions, is that the strategic planning process within the organization that is just about completed. I hope to have a strategic plan published by the summer. We've identified 11 strategic goals for the organization in the areas of customer support, business practices, workforce, finance, and resources. We are in the process of vetting those goals with our customers and users, with industry who are important partners with the NRO,and of course with our own workforce. These are stretch goals, but I think they are achievable within the five-, to ten-, to fifteen-year time frame. Some of them will be done sooner than others, but I'm quite excited about the extent to which the senior team has participated in developing an organization for the future.

So that's sort of a quick brush on the NRO side and obviously I'm brand new in the Air Force just having gotten this job about three weeks ago. I'm a little less certain about how to proceed on that path and am in my early phases on that. But,I'm prepared to answer your questions on either front the best that I can. Who wants to go first?

Q: On acquisition, you mentioned the financial management system, is that going to be open bid?

A: It has been open bid and it was awarded to a company here in Northern Virginia, but it was a competitive bid. I can't say for sure that it was an unclassified process, I really don't know. I suspect it was. But it was competitive and I can get you the name of the company that won the award.(Editorial Note: Company is American Management Systems.)

Q: What can you tell us about one of the points that you referred back to in terms of the systems that you are eyeing. You said that you now have, what can you tell us just in terms of how the systems that you are eyeing are different from the systems that you're flying and buying?

A: The ones that we are eyeing, first of all, there are several things about them. First of all, they are smaller, not across the board, because there are some missions that we don't know how to do in a smaller package. I just want to say on that front, I'm interested in right sizing satellites so I wouldn't want to spend a lot of money doing the same job, just in a smaller package if there wasn't some notable return for doing it. What we have found is that by going smaller in some of our areas, such as our imagery satellites, that we can deliver better capabilities taking advantage of newer technologies and do the whole job better and cheaper than with the systems we're currently flying. There is a transition period here and this is not without some degree of risk--technical risk, but I think it's all manageable. There are some engineering challenges to doing the job better, but in a smaller package. But I think all of those are manageable. So that would be the first thing I'd point out, that they're going to be smaller.

Secondly, we are aggressively looking at new ways of providing information on what I would call the hard-target intelligence problems and I can't go into details but there might be some new data sources that we can take advantage of and given technology breakthroughs that might lead to some help on difficult intelligence targets.

Q: Are you referring to space bases?

A: Space bases is right, but we have . . . I have five R&D priorities to look at. The first is working, what I call new intelligence sources and methods, and that can be a space-based sensor source, or it can be a method, some way of processing data, for example, in some unique way that hasn't been done before that extracts more information in the same sensor data, if you know what I mean. (Right) So, it doesn't necessarily have to be just in space although that's what our focus is; it could be processing data that comes from space in a more unique way.

Q: So what you're talking about is a new mission.

A: Right. A new mission area. A new data source, something with a new phenomenology that we might exploit.

Q: This would require, I guess, new satellites that you haven't launched in the past, or the type that you haven't launched in the past.

A: That's right.

Q: I also wanted to ask you, I just wanted to make sure in the eyeing category you've mentioned two things: smaller and aggressively look at new ways. Are there any other things that you're eyeing?

A: Sort of, in the--I guess those two would categorize the sort of across-the-board what's different about the way we're applying our acquisition processing and capabilities, that's two. That's a different subject.

Q: In terms of shaping for the post Cold War environment, what does that mean for you guys? Does that mean you need more satellites, because you've got to look at a more diverse set of potential targets?

A: Well, I think as we've looked at this long range planning process, what we think our customers want are two things. One is assured global coverage. That means any spot on the face of the earth we have the ability to conduct reconnaissance of when needed. Secondly, I think our customers are looking at tailored information that we have made available to them anywhere they are on demand. So, I think that over the years, if you look at the traditional concerns about the NRO on the part of some of our customers, particularly the military side, they'd be concerned that, sure you have global access, but you don't have enough; you're going to be focusing on the stuff that the folks inside the Beltway want and not the stuff we need out here in the field. So the assured global access goal is to provide a capacity that is capable of meeting a very large volume of need across multiple users.

And the other thing that I think our customers would be concerned about is that the classification level would be so high that we might have it but we won't tell them, or that the format that our data is in is so difficult to send over tactical communications. For example, that even if we had it, it would take us forever to get it to them in some form--be that we'd have to send a courier or we'd have to tie up their communication lines forever. So that's where that second goal comes in. Tailored information on demand wherever they are worldwide. I think that the revolution that is occurring, information technology, that we've seen in the last 10 to 15 years is going to yield even more dramatic improvements in the next 10 to 15 years, and, of course I'm not alone--everybody says that. We will have the wherewithal to make anything that we collect available in a tailored fashion to any user anywhere with relative ease.

Q: So this doesn't necessarily mean more satellites out there?

A: It does mean more satellites because I think that if you take the combination of worldwide access when needed, you're going to need more satellites to do that, and that's why smaller satellites that are cheaper, but just as capable, or perhaps even more capable, are so attractive to us. It allows us to--for the same amount of money- deploy much better, more robust, more populated constellations systems.

Q: You talked About five R&D priorities, you hit one of them.

A: Yes, I hit one of them. So, one of them is the new sources and methods. Another one is working intractable intelligence problems. These are the things that everybody wants to know about but the Intelligence Community has a hard time getting information on. I don't want to go into detail on that but there are these vexing problems that to the extent that we can find solutions on space based sensors, we want to work on.

The third one is orders of magnitude in improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. I think that one of the other problems of space systems in space is that they are expensive. If we can find ways of getting the job done in a much more effective or efficient manner, then that's worth investing my R&D dollars in to do that.

The fourth is an area that I call frontiers of exploitation. I'm not as you know, the NRO is not in the business of exploiting the data that we collect. We're sort of a raw data provider, when our customers can use that data in raw form, we send it direct to them. Otherwise it has to go through other people who do evaluating, processing, imagery interpretation, and so forth. But I think that there is a role for the NRO in the exploitation R&D arena to look at perhaps some more speculative exploitation techniques, where the knowledge of the sensor system itself and how it's built, and how it's operated in detail might provide some insights that the NSAs of the world or the NIMAs of the world may not stumble upon themselves. So where we have knowledge based upon how the sensor is designed and operated that can help the exploitation, that's the frontier we should explore with new techniques and new data coming out.

Q: It's like analysis?

A: It is, but on the R&D side. The NRO doesn't have a job in analyzing on a day-to-day basis the data we collect. What I'm talking about is identifying new tools, new processes that can be employed on this data that allows our customers to extract more from it. I just call it the frontiers of exploitation.

The fifth thing is space services. That is a sort of catch all that has me recognize that, although my job at the NRO is to build systems that collect intelligence, that there are other things these platforms can do that might be important to the national security and do so in a very effective way that provides support to blue forces for example, maybe a comm package or something else, that we can do on our platforms that meet the DoD need at very reasonable costs. We need to have R&D dollars looking at and exploring those opportunities, too.

So those are the five areas of R&D that I have specified as our priorities. I'm a non-technical--I was a budget engineer in Congress-- unlike my engineers in my organization who are all technical. So I've asked them to when they come in and brief me on a new R&D project, they have to tie it back to one of those five, because I think those five are things my customers can understand as opposed to some, you know, "we're going to get this focal plane cooled down to some level of degrees kelvin" --I don't know what the hell that means.

Q: One of other programs to support the warfighters that may fit into some of this is called Project Strike II that General Fogleman mentioned in his testimony?

A: Yes, he supported that.

Q: F117s, AWACS, interesting stuff. Could you talk a little bit about that . . . where does that fit . . . is that a warfighter issue?

A: That's the type thing that I was alluding to earlier about connecting with the services. In this case, the Air Force is looking at information in the cockpit that the pilot could use to support air operations. And Project Strike II, as I under stand it, was an Air Force Ten Cap program that the NRO and other folks(DARO) supported; it wasn't just NRO data. But, in this particular case they were looking at ways where you have a critical fleeting target that your intelligence or surveillance systems detect. Is there a way that you can get more information than just a message to the pilot that says "Hey there's a target in such and such a place." Can you get imagery, can you get other data directly into the cockpit in a way that allows the pilot to process that information to go and prosecute the target? And it was successful. Imagery was . . . formatted for a message as well as imagery that was sent via AWACS to a cockpit came up with the--whatever the--I'm not familiar with the F15 cockpit, but came up in the onboard equipment that was in the cockpit and imagery was used in a way that allowed the pilot to, in effect, strike a target that he was not planning on.

Q: Sent from the AWACS directly to . . .

A: Sent by the AWACS, from my understanding it went from the AWACS directly in to the cockpit. Then there was also sensor information that came from the national systems on threat on radar that was not known to be in a particular location that became known after the pilot was up in the air. That information was sent in to update the threat nature.

Q: Went up to the cockpit from the national system or via JSTARS?

A: All of these I think went via some type of command and control whether in the latter case it went via AWACS, or some other means, I don't know. But, I think justifiably in most cases you want information that's heading into a cockpit to go via command control structure not directly in.

Q: Were you in Roving Sands, that whole exercise out there?

A: Yes, and we participated in 80 exercises last year and there will be more than that this year. All the big ones, and we're there either simulating or providing real information to allow the forces to train as they fight. Or, in the case of the digitization of the battlefield, to help the Army evaluate operational concepts by seeing one role we can play in the successive operational equipment.

Q:When you're talking about this tailored information on demand, do you envision future direct-to-the-cockpit or real-time-to-the-cockpit?

A: Yes, I think things like that could happen. Those are really operational calls that have to be made by the operator. They have to determine what is the utility of the data to their operations, what is it that a pilot, or tank commander, or shipdriver, or whatever, what is it that they can process profitably as opposed to getting confused by. We can confuse people real quick, too, with the data that is available. And then what is the best format to provide that in? Clearly, we're not going to be designing things that go in cockpits, so they have to then tell us, okay, here's the information that is useful, here is the format that it needs to be in order for the pilot to use it, and then we have to build a system, a capability, that enables that information to flow. Keep in mind that one size fits all may not be possible here. The type of information you can put into an F15 cockpit may look different from what you put into an advanced fighter cockpit, like an F22 or something like that because of the nature of the systems or the weapons systems on board the craft. That's what I mean when I said tailored.

Q: When you talk about this new tailored system and more satellites, NRO's going to need more funding. Are you going to have to go larger, or is this all going to be taken care of through technological.

A: Well, I think that it depends upon the role that the Defense Department wants to assign to the NRO and the services. There's a tremendous amount of information that is useful, I think, to the military in operations as a by-product of the national intelligence mission that these systems have. In that case, we can probably do a lot more than we do today with our future systems just by understanding what it is they want and with relatively inconsequential costs, finding a way of getting it to them in the right format. If you get into some other areas of information where they put a greater demand on us than what the DCI would be asking us to do, for example, then they may require some additional funding. What I am hopeful is that as we move to capitalize our new technology, on acquisitions reforms, and all the rest, we're going to be able to free up resources that will enable us to provide options to our customers, without me having to go to them and saying, I need more money. In the imagery arena what we're finding is that there's a lot more capability to do that because you can build things cheaper and better, I think.

Q: You used to be...commercial Imagery?

A: Well, we're looking at that. I think our customers really don't care whether the image that they need comes from an NRO system, air plane, or commercial source. The question is does it provide them what they need? And I think the more appropriate person to answer that question is Jack Dantone. Whether or not the NRO would be assigned the role of going out and actually buying or acquiring commercial imagery, I don't know. Because after all the user can go out and buy it direct themselves. There may be some value in having the NRO do it or otherwise having the NRO calculate it into our architecture planning and that is what we are doing.

Q: Does that mean you get, in other words, just recognizing that these commercial systems are out there you could maybe task your satellites to (inaudible)?

A: Let me give you an example of what we're looking at. What we are doing in this future imagery architecture process is we're going to use performance based specifications. We're going out into industry saying this is the level of performance we want to achieve from our imagery system in the future. We are not constraining them in terms of what they can consider as platforms to meet that performance. And what we're interested in obviously, is the best value to the government. So that means,to me, that industry is free to consider the mix of government, because after all, there are going to be some government needs that are unique in this field that aren't likely to be matched by any commercial system. But, they are free to give us a mixture of commercial and government systems to meet those requirements and it's a wide open trade space. And, so . . . the role of commercial is really to be determined from the standpoint of NRO use to what we are going to specify as our needs for reconnaissance imagery. Industry is free to propose commercial solutions as well.

Q: Can you just talk a little bit about--you mentioned Admiral Dantone--sort of the relationship between NRO and NIMA and also, you probably won't want to answer this, but, your budget for 97 requests?

A: I can't talk about my budget requests, obviously. I can tell you that the budget is flat. As I look at our future budget it's flat as far as the eye can see. There are some anomalies for 96 and 97 overall, I can tell you that because . . .



. . . and NSA and DIA and CIA. When it comes right down to it, we spend a lot of time talking about the hardware in this business. The real thing that makes this whole enterprise operate is people. The people who are the NRO and the people who are our customer base. And the quality of their interactions between the NRO and folks like people at NIMA and NSA has a direct bearing on the ultimate utility and value of the things that we do. If we're not working well together, the customers are going to suffer. In recognition of that, what we have developed is a concept that we call Mission Partners. And I have several Mission Partners in my point of view. Now, what's a Mission Partner? A Mission Partner is someone who needs us to get their job done and we need them to get our job done. I differentiate that from the user, who has a different job, to mean that a pilot has a job different than I do. I can give that pilot information that can help him do his job, but he's in a different business. Jack Dantone and I are in the same business together. He needs me as a data source and I need him to take the data that I provide and put the value added effort into it that leads it to a useful product for somebody?

Q: NIMA is . . .

A: So, NIMA is a Mission Partner. NSA is a Mission Partner. The central MASINT office of the Defense Intelligence Agency is a Mission Partner. The all source analysis engines at CIA and DIA are Mission Partners because they use all the data that we collect. And US Space Command is a Mission Partner. We rely on them to launch our satellites, the system launch of our satellites, provide us information on the threats to our systems, and so forth. So, they're a Mission Partner, too. And what I specified is that the NRO needs to think of them, all of those people I just mentioned, as partners, which means they have to have full insight into what we're doing, what we're thinking, what the trades are that we think we have to make, and be part of the decision process by which those--by which decisions are made on our--my--the systems that I'm responsible for. What I point out is that in these matters, Jack Dantone has 50% of the vote. If it's on imagery matter in the NRO, he's got 50% of the vote. And if he and I agree, now we're in good shape. If he and I disagree, then we kick that upstairs.

Q: I'm a little confused About this relationship with NIMA. AsI understand it, the NRO buys and builds, or buys and operates these systems, but your customer is really NIMA, so I'm not quite sure where the NRO would be interested in commercial imagery. Why couldn't a commercial imagery provider just provide that directly to NIMA?

A: Well, the reason why I'm interested in commercial imagery is if there's a way of grafting a mix of commercial and government and NRO imagery that allows us to achieve the performance objectives specified by our users and our customers that is less cost than a government only solution, I think that needs to be looked at. Because it will be a more cost effective solution. I think there is another aspect to this. And that is to the extent that U.S. industry can have a role in the government arena, that allows us probably to move more towards commercial standards-let me see if I can think of an example. If you look at some of the computer systems that the government operates, maybe there's an example, where the government saw how it was going to use its management information system and then goes off and builds it, a proprietary closed system and never had to worry about -interacting with people outside the government until some later date and now you find yourself incompatible with what the rest of the world is doing. I think there are advantages in standardization by having a commercial imagery presence in the government that allows us to constantly be mindful of the fact as we develop processing systems, as we develop communications and dissemination systems, and all the rest, that there may come away when there is more on the commercial side than on the government side. If and when that day was to occur, you don't want to be with a government proprietary closed non-interoperable system. So, I think that there's value in promoting, to the extent there is a real market' there, commercial solutions because it fosters that type of commercial business practice that the government I think eventually wants down the road.

Q: Now, are you aware of any kind of anchor tenancy arrangements between U.S. government and the providers of this commercial imagery that are coming on line?

A: No. There aren't any anchor-tenant arrangements along those lines. About as far as we've gone is what I've just specified. We've gone out to say here are the governments requirements for imagery in the future, and that's a work in progress. Jack Dantone is leading the effort across the government to determine what those requirements are. But, as that matures, industry will be free to say here is a mixture of commercial and government that will do that. The anchor-tenant is not the concept here. It's whatever industry comes up with as a proposed solution to what the government's needs are.

Q: If the industry hadn't downsized so much change in the Cold War, can the people who are still out there do all those things now that fewer companies are bigger companies now--TRW, Lockheed Martin-- How do you assess industry's ability to do all these things?

A: Well, I think, while there has been consolidation, it's also clear to me that the space business is booming. And, I think that industry does have the capacity to respond. My fear when I came in was actually the opposite. I thought that, given the absence of specific long range plans in the NRO in terms of new capabilities and new imperatives for the post Cold War world, that the emphasis within the space business was shifting from the part of these very same companies that used to do business with us to other areas of pursuit that were judged to be more profitable in the future perhaps.

I think that the aerospace industry is fully capable of responding to what we do. When we did the future imagery architecture, we had--I'm trying to remember the number of the companies that came in for that briefing--but there was either,as primes or subs, we had, I think over 100* companies represented at our briefings on our future imagery architecture. And we have five prime teams** vying for the various aspects of the of our imagery competition. So, I'm not concerned that we don't have the wherewithal out there, I think that if I have an area of concern, it's the certainty elsewhere, not just in space, but across the board that appear to be in such high demand that in. . . like, software engineers for example, where if you're interested in pursuing information based systems in the future from a government point of view, which is after all the intelligence we know about, we're really in a tight market place on specific skills of people, but I think that there's sufficient competition out there to make me feel comfortable.

*(Editorial Note: (Six prime teams are competing in the acquisition phase.)

**[56 companies attended the bidders conference for a total of 234 people.]

Q: Can you say who the five zones are and when they will pick a winner?

A: I'm not sure we've made that public. I'd ask that you get that through Dennis and we'll see. We have declassified the association on companies at the corporate level--headquarters level--as you know, but we have not declassified information associated with specific contracts on-going.

Q: Can you give us some background on this competition?

A: Well, we began the competition with a bidders brief in January. We're in what I call Phase B. This is for the future imagery architecture--let me back up. We did Phase A, which is our analysis of the needs and opportunities that convinced us that we can move to a new generation of smaller imagery satellites within budget and with improved capabilities that would allow us to deploy more satellites. And, we completed that study last summer. We vetted that with all of our customers and the DCI and the SECDEF and the expanded resources board gave us the green light to proceed with an acquisition which was proposed in our 98 budget. And we proposed to the Congress that we use 97 money authorized and incorporated for small sats to begin in 97. We moved then, after Phase A which was the concept study, to phase B which was the period of time where we want to sort out what are the utility of various increments of improvement in imagery capabilities. We listed, Jack Dantone, has listed 25 varying attributes about an imagery constellation. Such things as area, resolution, accuracy, special information, stuff like that.

We want...on Dantone's part, we've asked him to work with the customers to identify the utility curve of varying improvements of performance of these attributes to the customer base that we support. And what the NRO will do is, working with these five competitors (six teams) that I mentioned, to identify the systems designs that you can have that could give us different degrees of performance and what our cost curve is associated with varying utility. So that, hopefully, we'll be able to sometime in early 98 go out with an RFP for the final system that lists the performance characteristics that we want, in both threshold and goal.

Q: Is that early FY 98?

A: Early Calendar Year 98. We're looking at probably January 98 to release the . . . to have an RFP out on the street. January 98 release the RFP for Phase C which is the acquisition and operations phase of the system to develop what we need to know to require and operate and launch the system.
(Editorial note: RFP for Phase C will be issued in Spring 1998)

Q: When you acquire the system...

A: The new imagery constellation for the country.

Q: Is this basically . . .the winner of this competition ...

A: The winner of the Phase C, and there may be multiple winners because there are various aspects of R&D constellation,-I can't go into specifics with you, but different satellites and we have a variety of ground activities that have to be brought to bear so there could be multiple awards, but that would be it. We're not going to have a proto-type or an engineering development model or anything like that. The awards for the development contract, that will be it for the one winner in each of the areas. And that would be . . .we would expect to have probably in the October 98 time frame.

Q: And the winners of this will be the contractors for the nation's imagery for...

A: Years in the future.

Q:Years. They lock it up pretty much in their various categories, the winners. (That's right) And you say you expect multiple awards--there could possibly be multiple satellite awards, for example, different types of satellites. How...

A: These are teams of contractors

Q: There's five different teams planned right now, so I guess one would anticipate that the winner or winners would be selected from among these teams, presumably.

A: Yes. Not all of them are bidding for all of the work. There are some that are bidding for all the work. But some of them are in the different areas.

Q: I'm going to shift into the controversy you've got going on now with the Air Force with the Titan IV issue. They're claiming that through the year 2004 and 2006 launches aren't to use EELV,instead of they are going to save lots of money in capabilities and structure. From the Air Force concept, can you comment on that? What's the NRO's view on the situation?

A: I think, and of course this is an area where I can end up being schizophrenic, because I'm both Air Force and NRO. I think we've worked out within the Air Force and the NRO an approach that we're comfortable with now. Basically what you have is the variety of factors coming together that are causing pressure on the Titan boost budget which after all is very important because we still have 20 launches to go, plus the Air Force, EELV, NASA.

So we're only about half way through the program if you will, but also we also know that's the end of the program and it's going to be replaced through the EELV's or there's something to follow it. And what you have is pressure on the budget that is causing folks to look at Titan IV for some savings. Congress is proposing savings out of Titan and the Bosnia supplement. All that's being worked. And the Air Force has bills to pay and because of the ops tempo that exists and the need to provide resources for that. When . . . and, of course, these things always have very short time lines--give me your- bill payers by the close of business tomorrow. So, what we expressed, what the NRO expressed was some concern that the resources that were being taken out were leading to too quick decisions on restructuring the program without full consideration of the risks of being able to have access to space through the future.

Q: Too quick--do you mean t-o-o or t-w-o?

A: T-o-o, too quick. The . . . what we've arrived at is that there are some 97 savings available and we've agreed with that. But, I've asked that the Air Force not make decisions on exactly what a restructured program would look like. There's talk about buying fewer than 41 which is the 41 buy right now.

Q: You're going to 37 or something like that?

A: There's a variety of options under review. And moving some payloads a year in the NRO, Air Force or both to EELV, and so forth, and what I've asked is that we do a careful review of the risks because I think that the . . . we have to be mindful that we could have delays in EELV heavy lift taking off, we could have delays in or problems in Titan in our 20 launches that are coming up. And that we need to make sure that we have the ability to overcome those problems and deliver the goal we're interested in here to get the payloads on orbit and not launching boosters and that we have the means of doing that. And the Air Force has agreed with that and Art Mooney and I now have a plan that we wait for the decisions to be made down the road now understanding probably some savings that will be taken in the Titan budget in the near future.

Q: Isn't it this morning that the Air Force Council met or last night7

A: The Air Force Council meets this afternoon at 5:00 with regard to that on this and the overall monitors recurring requirements for fiscal year 97.

Q: Among the savings the Air Force is claiming, you don't have to requalify the solid rockets motors?

A: We're kicking a can down the road on that on whether or notre have to requalify the motors. One of the concerns that I had that we may be making a decision not to do that prematurely. So that as it stands now, that option will be held open.

Q: What about . . . as I understood that was sort of Titan what they are looking at is taking 3 Titan or payloads 3 payloads of the Titan IV that are to be downsized, launched from the west coast on smaller rockets and then those 3 Titan IVs are going to be launched from the east coast. Is that still an option here,or is that something that you've deferred a decision on?

A: This time last year there was a plan to have a Titan follow on by (inaudible).

Q: Right.

A: Part of the incurred costs for the Titan follow on buy was a couple of things in there as I understand it--this is not my program, the Titan, it's Air Force AQ. So, I'm going on information that they've conveyed to me. The NRO was part of the reason for that follow on buy. When we made the decision last summer that we were going to move to a new generation of smaller imagery satellites, that took away the need the NRO had for a number of Titan vehicles that were specified in the follow on buy. And it also took some vehicles that were in the baseline 41 that were earmarked for the NRO imagery satellites and said we weren't going to need those either. So, as a consequence, the Air Force and the NRO concluded that we could meet all of our requirements within the confines of that initial Titan 41 buy. And that's where you see some of this switch from the West Coast to the East Coast. All we're asking is those changes, boosters that we were going to buy for the West Coast we don't need anymore, now that the Air Force will use monies for the East Coast.

Q: So

A: So, what I'm talking about now is another change that is possible in the Titan program that says when do you want transition, having left EELV and do you want to do it earlier than what we were planning on? And, if so, you achieve savings in the Titan program, and what are the risks associated with doing that? The risks of being able to meet the schedule with EELV heavy and chances are that a 2006 launch need date we could probably meet that. 2004 is iffy, a little bit.

Q: So this will entail buying fewer than 41 Titan IVs?

A: It could, right, but they're also looking at other things for General Estes pointed out that they're looking with NASA at perhaps having some use of the shuttle. So we have a number of options that are being looked at there.

Q: But . . .

A: . . . the needs are fewer than 41.

Q: Okay, so they're looking at a number of options to reduce the overall buy of 41 vehicles, but at your request it sounds like this decision has been kicked down the road a piece.

A: The exact nature of restructured programs was being kicked down the road. Will it require a re-qual of the nozzles on the engines? That's being kicked down the road. How many spares are necessary within the inventory in order to have confidence that you can get all of the Titans up that we're planning? That is under review. And, then what payloads get moved-from Titan to EELV, specifically, or payloads from Titan to the Shuttle? All of those are decisions to be made down the road.

Q: Some of your payloads could be on the Shuttle?

A: My payloads will not are not capable of being launched by the Shuttle.

Q: So, its still an open question at this point as to whether they're going to buy fewer than 41 Titans?

A: That's'right. Although, I think for sure that you'll see some change there.

Q: In the 41 vehicle contact to vehicles?

A: Yes. I think you'll see some change there.

Q: How do you juggle your role. You have two hats and you've got pulls both ways. NRO says one thing the policy of the Air Force is pulling another way.

A: You know, my role actually works to the advantage of both sides to have someone with a foot in both camps. It sort of makes for some interesting conversations I have with my two staffs, but it really works to the advantage of all. I mean, I have . . . you look at it this way, I have a presence in the Air Force decision making process. I'll be at the council meeting today and I will have views on the changes that are being proposed in the space areas. And some of those affect the NRO, you know I have an entre insight into the system and will be right at the table when a decision is made. On the other hand, the Air Force views, what they prefer and what they face, I bring into the NRO forum and will be able to say, well, let me give you an example.

As you look down into the future, as I weigh the benefits that will accrue to the nation and to the national security generally by programs such as EELV, but the tremendous improvements it's going to give us in such things as launch processing, launch processing time, how long it takes to get a launch up and interoperability across boosters, and so forth with payloads. I think that's a very important program. When an NRO program office goes out and looks at . . . you know, they're building a payload, they would look at it from the standpoint, gee, we have a choice. We can launch from EELV or maybe we can go ATLAS or DELTA, or whatever. But, what I've been able to specify is take the larger view and say, listen, the major benefits to the country accrued by the Air Force and the NRO being users of EELV and that will be the baseline system for the NRO in the future, EELV, heavy EELV, medium, and so forth. However, taking my work the NRO program offices may be interested in, if there is a substantial cost savings, substantial, in performance, cross, schedule, or what have you associated with commercial launch vehicle other than EELV, then we can entertain it. But, it's got to be a big deal of difference. So the basis. . . so there's an example of the way we can work things across the two for the betterment of the national security space mission, I think. Whereas individually, decisions could come out differently if it wasn't all coordinated.

Q: The technical analysis right now is budget tensions between the two agencies are driving this issue?

A: Say it again.

Q: What's the attitude right now between the Air Force and the NRO on this Titan issue? Reflects kind of a pulling with any changes their concerns over the budgets. . .

A: Yes.

Q: Air Force saying I can make savings on Titan infrastructure?

A: I think that the way to describe it is as I characterized it earlier. The Air Force was faced with some big bills to pay and a short time to figure out what the sources for those bills were going to be. Somebody said, well, gee, you know, if we made the following changes to the Titan program, which fattened the envelope, really seemed to make a lot sense to be able to say that's a hundred million dollars. And that got glomped on to, in the feeding frenzy of the budget process and we came in and said, gee, those ideas all look interesting, but we really need to make sure that they we're not incurring too much risk, that we had an executable program, and all the rest, from an NRO standpoint. Because we don't have a choice other than Titan.

Q: ??? suggestion that you could go on the shuttle instead?

A: I can't go on the shuttle. So if I have a problem with the Titan and an EELV has slowed down, I have a satellite sitting on the ground.

Q: We have time, I think, Just for probably one last question this new constellation. When's it going to start coming out online? We talked about small sats, I know that sometimes it's a little different in the NRO than throughout the industry to build a small sat. Can you give us an idea of how much smaller and how many more you're going to have?

A: You know, as I've said, I think the baseline ought to be for the NRO. I would say the same thing to my guys who come to me and say could we launch it on the shuttle. It'd better be asubstantial value in terms of cost, schedule, and performance that causes us to say, gee, that's a better choice. With respect to the timing on FIA, we're looking as early in the next decade for the first launch. What was the other aspect?

Q: How Small is small?

A: Oh, how small is small? That's got to be up to industry. It's certainly not going to require a Titan because we've already said that we're not buying any more Titans to support the constellation. At the outset, I would say that, or at least ATLAS class if industry finds ways of coming together with a constellation that's even smaller than that. Deltas, or who knows, maybe 24 Pegasus class vehicles. We really don't care from the NRO standpoint. I'm looking for the best performance,cost mix, and industry is free to put forward whatever they believe is the most competitive, best value.

Appeal. Do I hear an appeal? Okay, Last one.

Q: I just was down in Huntsville and General Anderson of the Army was talking about some of his future requirements and he raised the possibility of perhaps directly downlinking NRO imagery to fighting commanders in the field, but not only that, the possibility of tasking, having Army people in the field tasking NRO satellites in the future, not just in addition to possibly hanging a hyperspectral imagery on an NRO satellite. I wonder if you could address that, Mr. Hall?

A: What I said before, the things that a customer wants is assured collection. And the customer has always specified assured global collection. And that's where I think this tasking argument comes in. People feel uncomfortable if they have to task through some faceless bureaucrat in Washington, that no matter how important their need is out there in the field, that they are going to get out-prioritized. If we have a system that is capable of providing the capacity needed to meet what the users are asking for, the tasking question goes away. Now it becomes a question of how reliant the R&D and comm paths are. Obviously this would have a direct downlink to direct tasking up to the satellite we're going to have to rely on some compact to send your messages to or route back to the information crew. But I think that becomes much less of an issue with the type constellations we're dealing with in the future from the tasking side, we'll have much more capacity to take images.

Q: So they'll be less inclined to want to do their own tasking?

A: I think so. I think that, again, the force structure forward necessary to task a satellite and receive the downlink directly and then process it so that you can get to an image that's useful is something that I would think the services are not all that anxious to have. I think what they want is the information, but they want it assured information and as I look down into the future, I think that the cost of doing these things from space and the information infrastructure that's going to exist to provide some assurance that you'll get it, don't worry about it. There's a zillion ways to get it to you if paths get interrupted.