Posted by Sam Churchill on

Philip Taubman, of the New York Times, has a think piece on The Death of a Spy Satellite Program;

A panel reported that the project, called Future Imagery Architecture, was far behind schedule and would most likely cost $2 billion to $3 billion more than planned, according to records from the satellite agency, the National Reconnaissance Office.

It took two more years, several more review panels and billions more dollars before the government finally killed the project — perhaps the most spectacular and expensive failure in the 50-year history of American spy satellite projects.

The story behind that failure has remained largely hidden, like much of the workings of the nation’s intelligence establishment.

But an investigation by The New York Times found that the collapse of the project, at a loss of at least $4 billion, was all but inevitable — the result of a troubled partnership between a government seeking to maintain the supremacy of its intelligence technology, but on a constrained budget, and a contractor all too willing to make promises it ultimately could not keep.

“The train wreck was predetermined on Day 1,” said A. Thomas Young, a former aerospace executive who led a panel that examined the project.

The Future Imagery project is one of several satellite programs to break down in recent years, leaving the United States with outdated imaging technology. But perhaps more striking is that the multiple failures that led to the program’s demise reveal weaknesses in the government’s ability to manage complex contracts at a time when military and intelligence contracting is soaring.

By the time the project, known by its initials, F.I.A., was killed in September 2005 — a year after the first satellite was originally to have been delivered — cost estimates ran as high as $18 billion.

Exposes like this are what make newspapers vital. Journalists like Siobhan Gorman at The Baltimore Sun and teams at The Washington Post and NY Times watch the watchers. NRO’s projects run billions in the red and years behind schedule, says a 2003 story in US News and World Report.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Live Iridium Video from Arctic, Canaveral Double Header for DOD, Another Billion for WIN-T, Small Satellite Conference, SkyNet Satellite Hacked?, Russian Satellite Zapped?, Advanced EHF – Wait for It, GOES-N Launched, Tracking the NRO, Space Capsule, Unwired in Maui, Pacific Satellites Fail and Chinese Destroy Satellite – Create Space Debris Field.

Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, November 14th, 2007 at 12:27 pm .

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