Whither NSSO?

On Thursday the Pentagon released a memo from Secretary the Air Force Michael Donley discussing changes to the Air Force’s space management and organization. The changes were designed to address what a review said some considered a “confusing” structure for the service’s space organization, particularly after changes such as ending the “dual-hatting” of the Under Secretary of the Air Force as Director of the NRO in 2005. As DOD Buzz notes, perhaps the biggest changes are making the Under Secretary of the Air Force “the focal point for space” at Air Force headquarters and giving the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition the responsibility for space acquisition.

Another aspect of the memo and review is the uncertain, but not particularly promising, future of the National Security Space Office (NSSO), originally a joint office between the Defense Department and NRO but now solely staffed by the DOD. While Air Force staff currently assigned to NSSO will now fall under the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, Donley’s memo states that decisions about NSSO staff associated with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) will be deferred “until ongoing discussions about the role of the EA [Executive Agent] for Space and roles and reporting relationships for any successor organization to the NSSO are complete and agreement has been reached for the roles and responsibilities of the successor organization(s).” The memo adds that discussions with OSD on the future of functions assigned to NSSO are ongoing, with Donley stating he is “very encouraged by the collaborative approach demonstrated during these meetings.”

3 comments to Whither NSSO?

  • Propeller Head

    Who cares?

    Good riddance. The NSSO should have been disbanded years ago and brought up on fraud, waste, and abuse charges.

    They had one function- develop space architectures. Instead the pretended to write policy and misrepresent themselves internationally as the center of all things having to do with space in the national security community. It was this craziness that caused the IC to pull their money for the NSSO- the NSSO was supposed to serve the IC, not the other way around.

    That group of fraudsters can’t be gone soon enough. It’s a little sad because they have good people working there but the leadership is delusional.

  • David C

    Kind of reminds me of a stint in a study section of a Gov’t department; it was suppose to do real work, but it had devolved into a group just doing studies; I was a cypher clerk, (this was before computers) and so long as we didn’t look too closely we had a job for life, what the old timers called “the Duration”; the studies were never finished, and it was probable we”d do a study, have it shelved, only to have to redo it 5 years later because a new batch of politicians wanted it; the same confusion, and the same bureaucratic dance; what a crock; good money though ;-)

  • Al Fansome

    The divergence between the IC and DOD space is large and deep. Many Congresses and the Presidents, and their commissions, have repeatedly decried the waste created by billion-dollar IC and DOD space systems that duplicate many functions, but which have “some” diverging requirements. The NSSO was, in theory, one way to bridge the chasm by creating a common architecture that could address both sets of requirements.

    Obviously, the NSSO has failed to achieve that objective. It (we) failed years ago when the IC pulled out, but the interesting question (to me) is “Why has it not been put to rest?”

    I believe the reason is that nobody in charge wants to acknowledge the failure by government to integrate and cost-effectively manage these huge bureaucracies. The problem of the NSSO begs the questions about “What we should do now?” about this problem.

    I don’t have an answer.

    Unfortunately, this problem is easy to point out, and hard to fix.


    – Al

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