Subject:      NRO's smallsat flip
From:         [email protected] (Allen Thomson)
Date:         1996/12/08
Message-Id:   <[email protected]>

   Those who have been paying attention should have noticed that 
the NRO's position on small reconnaissance satellites flipped 
sign this past year, going from "monstersats rule" to 
"smallsats, prudently implemented, are great."  The 
precipitating event seemed to be the Hermann semi-outside 
advisory panel's report on the issue, but just why the NRO caved 
so easily hasn't been clear. 

   In similar situations most bureaucracies would hem, haw, 
delay, obfuscate, and the recommendation would be put on the 
shelf to be buried by the dust of the ages.  Given the 
traditional NRO's extreme hostility to the external universe and 
its penchant for use of strong measures to suppress heresy, the 
events of 1996 clearly call for explanation. 

   I can't claim to have a detailed explanation, but some 
slightly indirect input from a member of the Hermann panel 
that's come my way may be relevant. 

   According to this Eminent Person, the NRO's opposition to 
smallsats was embodied in two senior managers, to wit Jimmie Hill, 
long-time deputy DNRO, and Julian Cabillero, director of the CIA's 
Office of Development and Engineering (sort of synonymous with NRO 
Program B).  When these two powerful individuals left the scene (Hill 
because of the funding scandals, Cabillero through normal retirement), 
things rapidly changed.  People (including, as I heard him say myself, 
Dennis Fitzgerald, next-but-one successor to Cabillero) who had seen the 
logic behind smallsats and Keith Hall, currently acting head of the NRO, 
were able to start changing course. 

   All this looks to have the makings of some very interesting 
studies in the dynamics of bureaucratic politics. and I'd hope 
some grad students get good dissertation topics from it.