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The National Commission for the Review of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is one of several Commissions that have been chartered in recent years to review the various intelligence and security institutions charged with maintaining the national security of the United States. The Commission's review is significant because the NRO provides unique intelligence capabilities that are vital to maintaining our national security.

This formerly secret spy agency develops, acquires and operates the most sophisticated satellite reconnaissance systems in the world. These satellites play a crucial role in protecting U.S. national security interests at home and around the world.

However, since the end of the Cold War, NRO programs previously viewed as vital to the nation's survival have become immersed in much of the normal governmental process. As a result, they no longer enjoy the personal involvement of the President or his senior advisors.

NRO program budgets, along with other intelligence program budgets, have been constrained and modernization has been delayed for several years. This circumstance has taken its toll on national reconnaissance capabilities. Moreover, this trend comes at a time when the plethora of threats facing the United States has never been more complex. Additionally, the proliferation of commercial imaging technologies and other public sources of information are providing our adversaries with unprecedented insight within our national borders, as well as into our overseas activities.

Equally problematic, widespread knowledge of the NRO's existence and public speculation on how NRO satellites are used has aided terrorists and other potential adversaries in developing techniques of denial and deception to thwart U.S. intelligence efforts. Similarly, other technologies, such as fiber optic communications, render certain NRO capabilities obsolete. Add to this the fact that the number of continuing U.S. military commitments and other U.S. interests around the globe that require continuing support is stressing the capacity of U.S. reconnaissance assets, and the result is a prescription for a potentially significant intelligence failure.

The Commission believes that these circumstances and the risks they pose to the security of the United States are so important that the results of its review of the NRO should be set forth to the maximum extent possible in this unclassified Report. In it, the Commission has underscored the need for leadership, direction and participation by the President in setting priorities and ensuring that adequate resources are provided to enable the NRO to develop innovative space-based or space-related solutions to meet the most difficult intelligence problems facing the United States.

Equally important is the need for a close and sustained working relationship between the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence who share in the management and oversight of the NRO. These individuals are key to ensuring that the NRO maintains technological superiority, despite the inevitable pressures to continue maintaining current capabilities at the expense of essential modernization.

The Commission believes it is vital that this review of the NRO and the resulting recommendations be considered as part of a comprehensive and overarching national security policy and strategy. This will help ensure that the proper array of intelligence capabilities is available for the continued survival and security of the United States in the 21st Century.

Graphic: Commission Signatures