Defining the Future of the NRO for the 21st Century
Report to the Director, National Reconnaissance Office
26 AUGUST 1996



(U) As the first of the nine Jeremiah Panel Working Groups formed, the Mission and Strategic Vision Working Group conducted a top-level review to address the continued need for an NRO-like organization and to define its mission into the 21st Century. The Panel addressed the mission issue first in order to provide direction and purpose not only to the organization as a whole, but also to the other Working Groups in particular for their immediate tasks at hand. The Working Group conducted a top-down approach in which the nation's future need for space reconnaissance was the primary consideration in determining a new course for the NRO. Space reconnaissance was regarded as the imperative; the current responsibilities of the NRO were not. In fact, the imperative for the continued existence of the NRO in the 21st Century was examined in great detail with no a prioriconclusion in mind.

(U) The Working Group membership comprised those experienced individuals who could interact real-time on the issues, positions, and rationales held by various Government organizations, particularly those who are, in any way, stakeholders in the future mission and responsibilities of the NRO. Government organizations internal and external to the NRO were represented. The members who actively participated and the organizations they represented are listed in Appendix II-1.


(U) The Working Group's effort to understand if the NRO would remain a national imperative in the 21st Century required several imperative clarification sessions with the Panel, which identified this question as the first mission issue to be resolved. Next, the Working Group explored several alternatives to a mission and vision for the NRO. Although the operative NRO mission was used as a baseline, the Working Group essentially took a "blank-page" approach to explore mission issues.


(U) The Panel was of one mind in its belief that the future security of the nation depends on its ability to conduct reconnaissance from space. The NRO is truly unique organization in that it is simultaneously an intelligence organization, a defense organization, and a space organization. The Venn diagram in Figure 1 depicts the NRO at the intersection of the realms of intelligence, defense, and space. It reports to two bosses, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) and the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), each of whom is vitally interested in its success, and each of whom makes major contributions of people, funds, infrastructure and other support necessary to the continued success of the NRO. The SECDEF-DCI partnership to manage, fund, and staff an organization for space-based reconnaissance to provide a major part of the collection front end of the intelligence process for national and operational military users is the raison d'etre of the NRO. After thoroughly examining a wide variety of alternatives, the Panel found that the NRO continues to be the right organizational answer to the nations space reconnaissance needs in the future because it serves the national and military equities represented by the SECDEF and DCI.

(U) Given the imperative to continue the existence of the NRO as the Nation's space reconnaissance organization, the Panel then examined the current NRO mission and developed several alternatives to change the mission including both limiting it and expanding it. After receipt of several important internal inputs, extensive review of options with the Working Group, and considerable debate, the Panel agrees that the mission of the NRO must change as follows.

(U) The Panel recommends that the mission of the NRO in the 21st Century should be to enable U.S. Government and military information superiority, during peace through war. The NRO is responsible for the unique and innovative technology, large scale systems engineering, development and acquisition, and operation of space reconnaissance systems and related intelligence activities needed to support global information superiority. In this vein, the Panel also recommends that the strategic vision of the NRO in the 21st Century should be to revolutionize space reconnaissance to oracle U.S. global information superiority.


Issue 1: (U) Is there an imperative for an NRO-like organization to conduct space reconnaissance into the 21st Century?

Findings: (U) Several false starts on the issue of whether the NRO would remain a national imperative in the 21st Century had to do with associating the NRO's traditional successful performance with its uniqueness. The Panel findings exposed and documented the fact that the military services and other agencies, for priority projects, have set up black program offices, empowered them with "streamlined" acquisition practices, and enriched them with sufficient resources to weather failures in solving high risk technology problems. And all achieved remarkable successes. The NRO is not unique, nor an imperative, solely because of its streamlined business practices.

(U) The Panel finding on why the NRO will remain a national imperative lies in the joint venture relationship between the SECDEF and DCI, who essentially co-sponsor the NRO. The NRO is an imperative because national security requires a national organization that attracts and retains a work force highly skilled in both space systems and intelligence disciplines; manages the development, acquisition and operation of space systems for long-term intelligence mission objectives; establishes stable relationships and mutual confidence with industry; and, simultaneously and in balance, contributes to the statutory responsibilities of the SECDEF and DCI to provide responsive intelligence to the official constituents of each. The Panel could find no other reasonable organizational solution for meeting all of these needs in an efficient and effective way.(The Venn diagram in Figure 1 highlights the NRO's unique and imperative mission.)

(U) The current NRO mission statement--developed by a DCI Task Force chaired by Mr. Robert Fuhrman in 1992--defines the NRO mission first in terms of its space intelligence collection mission and second in terms of the responsibilities of the NRO. The Panel accepted the two-level NRO mission as a model for the proposed mission statement. The two-level model also served as a framework for research and deliberations and became the basis for this section of the report.

(U) Since 1992, the operative mission of the NRO has been: "Ensure the U.S. has the technology and overhead assets it needs to acquire superior world-wide intelligence in war and peace. To this end, the NRO is responsible for conducting research and development and for acquiring and operating overhead systems for collection of intelligences. At the start, the Panel accepted the need to change the mission of the NRO in view of the monumental geopolitical, technology, and national policy changes that have occurred even since 1992. The Panel regarded forecasting the nations priority space reconnaissance need for the 21st Century as a major part of the effort and a major challenge. In particular, the Panel thought it was necessary to understand the demand for innovative technology and radically new architectures from what is now programmed by the NRO. In recommending a new mission for the NRO, the Panel thought it was important to understand whether the next generation space reconnaissance solutions should be about evolutionary or revolutionary technology management.

(U) At the outset of this effort, it was not clear whether all of the baseline NRO responsibilities should continue to be exclusive NRO responsibilities, should no longer be NRO responsibilities, or if new responsibilities should be added. Following determination of the nation's need for space reconnaissance in the future, and in context with this finding, the Panel focused on several issues of organizational responsibility:

- (U) The implications of diverging military intelligence needs and national intelligence needs on NRO acquisition practices.

- (U) The NRO's apparent slowdown in fostering innovative technology.

- (U) The need for the NRO to continue to operate mature space programs.

- (U) The need for the NRO business practice of cradle-to-grave program management.

- (S/B) Sanctioning data exfiltration as an NRO responsibility.

- (U) Expanding the NRO's become the IntelligenceCommunity~s end-to-end architect.

(U) The Panel believed that forecasting the nations space reconnaissance need to support enhanced national security in the 21st Century was critical to its assignment and, therefore, devoted considerable time to this issue. It was accepted, after exploring alternatives, that the mission of the NRO should remain, above all, space reconnaissance. The Panel felt the key to understanding the nation's future space reconnaissance need was to understand the 21st Century total reconnaissance mission.

(U) The 21st Century intelligence mission is currently a very active subject with change offerings from Government-commissioned study groups, Congress, and public interest groups, and from within the Intelligence Community itself. The observations and recommendations of these efforts were reviewed and are selectively addressed in this report.

(U) In addition to reviewing the many studies on the future mission of intelligence, the Panel attempted to project the implications of several on-going trends in intelligence and technology that were deemed relevant to the future space reconnaissance mission. Specifically, the Panel explored the implications of the National Security Council's redirection of national intelligence as specified in the 1995, Presidential Decision Directive on intelligence priorities (PDD-35); the expanding role of intelligence, particularly space and airborne reconnaissance, in support of military operations (SMO), and the information age revolution.

(U) PDD-35 and subsequent DCI amplifying guidance define the intelligence mission in terms of three sets of objectives:

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(C) While these intelligence needs will likely be priority needs well into the next century, the Panel did not accept them as the 21st Century core space reconnaissance need. These intelligence needs are associated with the evolutionary space reconnaissance enhancements now programmed rather than drivers for new innovative space systems or alternative architectures.

(U) The Panel accepted an expanded role for space reconnaissance for SMO at the outset as being a major factor for deriving the 21st Century NRO mission. In view of this development, the Panel explored in some detail the question of whether divergence in required system capabilities would prohibit common system solutions for national and military intelligence needs. If so, the SECDEF-DCI joint venture would come into question. It would raise the issue of whether the NRO mission should be bifurcated, possibly transferring the SMO mission to the Defense Department. As will be explained, the finding is that this likely will not be the case; rather, on a functional level future national and military space reconnaissance needs will coalesce.

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Recommendations(U) The Panel believes that there is an imperative for an NRO in the 21st century based on the needs of both the SECDEF and the DCI for affordable near continuous global coverage to enable U.S. global information superiority. Further, the Panel believes the Nation can afford only on space reconnaissance activity, and to be successful that activity must have the support, leadership, and resources of both the SECDEF and the DCI. The NRO should continue as a joint venture between the SECDEF and the DCI.

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Issue 2: (U) What should be the mission and responsibilities of the NRO in the 21st Century?


*Responsibility for Unique and Innovative Technology

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(U) The growing importance of systems engineering was highlighted repeatedly in both Working Group and Panel deliberations. This point was also made forcefully by several guest interviewees. NRO systems are growing in complexity. The NRO is committed to consolidate and integrate "like" systems, and to extend and integrate NRO systems with select operational user systems when enhanced services are required. The NRO now is in the business of engineering a system of systems. The Panel considered this significant and included systems engineering in the NRO's responsibilities statement in order to emphasize that this traditional task of the NRO should be a major business line.

(U) Because the NRO is highly skilled and experienced in systems engineering, the Panel considered expanding the NRO's mission to become the Intelligence Community's end-to-end architect. Arguments on the pro side, in addition to the NRO's expertise, included the points that: the Intelligence Community lacks such an agent; the Intelligence Community needs to integrate across programs; and the NRO is "purple" in terms of "INTs." and all-source producers. The dominant argument on the con side was the observation that the void is to be filled, albeit in a "stovepipe" fashion, by the collection discipline managers. This approach is reinforced with the establishment of NIMA and on the advice in several studies on Intelligence Community change that call for discipline managers to play the leading role in end-to-end architecture across ground, air, and space platforms. The panel supported the Working Groups's exploration of the NRO mission expanison to become the end-to-end intelligence architect and endorsed the Working Group's subsequent recommending that it not be added to the NRO mission statement.

*Responsibilty for the Development and Acquisition of Space Reconnaissance Systems

(U) The Panel did not consider any alternatives to this traditional NRO core mission. However, the Panel believes the innovative technology slowdown issue addressed above does carry over to the development and acquisition mission as well as to the proposed mission of ensuring global information superiority. The Panel recognizes that the systems and architectures required achieve near-continuous global coverage, with affordable designs, are not achievable through evolutionary improvements to systems now under development. Further, the management culture of the major program offices--with the responsibility and constant of developing and delivering new systems on time, within specifications, and within cost--is not conducive to risk taking nor fully supportive of innovative competing programs. While the Panel recognizes that the information superiority architecture is a long way off, we also recognize that the technology challenge of near-continuous coverage is so great that dedicated research programs need to be established in the near term, independent of ongoing development programs. The dual-track strategy, envisioned for transferring to more revolutionary systems and architectures in the 2020+ time frame is presented in Figure 2.

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* Responsible for Related Intelligence Activities

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(U) The Panel recommends that the mission of the NRO in the 21st Century be: To enable U.S. Government and military information superiority, during peace through war. The NRO is responsible for the unique and innovative technology, large scale systems engineering, development and acquisition, and operation of space reconnaissance systems and related intelligence activities needed to support global information superiority.

(U) Further, the Panel recommends the following strategic vision for the NRO: Revolutionize space reconnaissance to enable U.S. global information superiority.

(C) Within the context of this mission, the Panel recommends that the NRO should adopt a dual acquisition strategy with respect to future architectures. The first track should follow an evolutionary path to maintain reconnaissance capabilities until a second track of revolutionary systems can come on line.

Appendix II-1


Gordon Negus (Chairman)Aerospace
William Savage (Vice-Chairman)TASC
Dennis AdamsNRO/SI
Dr. Frank BerkoNSA
Dr. Louis BlackwellNRO/COMM
Joseph BozzayNRO/IM
David BroadhurstCIO
Col. Robert CoxASAF (Space)
Lt. Col. William DoyleUSSPACECOM
Kawana HutsonNRO/OSO
Jose JiminezWelkin Associates (for DoD/OSA)
Allen KrumNRO/IM
Col John LandonDUSD (S)
CAPT Matthew RogersDoD/OSA
Rick ShackelfordTASC
Col Eric SundbergNRO/OSA
Col Christopher WalnAFMC/SMC
Robert WeberCIA
James WilsonAerospace (for NRO/P&A)