Constant's pations

If it's more than 30 minutes old, it's not news. It's a blog.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

US Base in Australia: There's Something Else

Ref Press reports openly discuss the possibility that the US will be manning a facility in Australia to operate satellites.

Small problem: As curious as that might be, the story doesn't make sense.

We discuss.

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Overview of This DoD Procurement Mess

Ref: Mobile User Objective System -- Cell phone system, not available until 2010. What are they going to do in Australia for three years. . . .?

Ref Bad news: The satellites aren't ready. What will the Ausralian ground station monitor? That's right, weather balloons. Gag!

___ $1B over budget, cell phones, and the satellites aren't ready. Is SAIC involved? LOL Why isn't the US Navy creating a ship that will float around in the Indian ocean that is close, as opposed to being a fixed target?

___ How are they going to transfer the data from the weather balloons to Australia . . .are they going to have AWACS transferring the data to Australia . . .[ This is more believable! LOL ]

Ref: You were warned -- DoD report to Congress on problems with weapon system procurement.

* * *


The US ground stations in Australia appear to be a symptom of loss of world support for US strategic policies and interests.

Congress may provide funding and support for satellite ground stations, but until the public understands what the US leadership is doing, there's every reason to suggest that by the US creating a ground station in Australia the US is admitting, in effect, that the US cannot be sure it has world support.

The solution is not to celebrate a ground station, but to understand what is getting in the way of the world supporting the United States; and appropriately adjusting US conduct to motivate support both at home and abroad.

This program appears to be something that was originally conceived well before Sept 2001, but has not been adequately managed, especially in light of the lessons of Iraq. Someone needs to make a decision: How much more money are you willing to throw at this; and once the system is approved for deployment, how will you expect the tehncial management problem to be better overseen. A program should not be this much of a mess, nor should there be a basing-support decision after the concept is well advanced; but that concept has yet to be realized.

This program is screwed up and needs some reviews by Congress:

___ Who is assigned to the satellite production and deployment team;

___ Which tehnical problems has the satellite company not been able to timely resolve;

___ Is there a basic engineering problem which US commercial contractors are unable to adequately manage within the confines of simple quality control problems;

___ How have the tehnical problems related to this program's management been illustrative of other mlitary contractor productoin problems on other weapon systems?

* * *

Let's put aside the possibility for the moment that the US government is openly disclosing planning activities to support US combat operations.

There's a core question:

___ Why is the US arguing that the satellites, in a low-orbit over the Middle East are required to have a ground station in Australia?

Answer The satellites are geosynchronous.

___ Conversely, why are geostationary satellites, supposedly linked with non-moving satellites, linked with a ground station outside the Middle East?

It doesn't add up.

* * *

There may be a ground station, and it may be linked with satellites, but equally likely: The announcement is related to something bigger.

___ Training site for covert activities;

___ Ground station support for the US reconnaissance system which has yet to be revealed;

* * *

Let's back up and consider the arguments about the US putting a ground station in Australia for satellite support.

There are three kinds of satellites:

1. Those that are stationary, permanently over an area;

2. Those that are in orbit, passing over an area of interest;

3. Those that can move: Change speed, direction, altitude, and orbit.

The last category is what the US can use when it is focusing on an area of interest. The problem is: To argue that the US needs a ground station to control these moving satellites would imply that the command and control systems at the ground station have to be visibly linked with the satellite.

Conversely, arguing that the US doesn't need to control the satellites from a ground station -- arguing that the US could move the satellites indirectly -- would mean there's no reason to build something new. The US could send the signals to the satellites through other ground stations.

This approach would apply when considering the US interaction with satellites going over the poles in the polar orbit; or when the satellites are moving.

The problem with the open discussion on the satellite control system is that if Australia is the focus of the command and control of satellites over the Middle East and Central Asia the US could easily create a command and control system -- covering the same foot print -- from Turkey, a NATO ally.

* * *

The real question is: What can Australia offer -- at that distance from the Middle East -- which Turkey cannot. If we are to accept as true the premise that the US government wants to control satellites over Central Asia, it would make more sense to put the command and Control systems in a place that is closer to the region, not far away in Australia. For that matter, the US could put a ground control station in Israel, Egypt, or any other country including Pakistan or India.

* * *

I don't buy the argument that this facility in Australia is just for ground control of satellites. The ground control could be easily done elsewhere.

I suspect the real purpose of the facility has less to do with satellite reconnaissance, but more with a satellite communications system that supports the new US reconnaissance aircraft. It remains to be understood whether the base in Australia becomes an aircraft depot.

* * *

The issue is:

___ Why would the US announce openly a satellite ground station that supports satellite, reconnaissance, and intelligence gathering, yet we've been told that this activity -- as it relates to FISA, NSA, and global communications of the warrantless surveillance -- cannot be discussed?

That doesn't make sense.

However, if the US is going to announce something despite previous claims that it couldn't announce something or having something reported in the NYT, then on face value I don't believe the disclosure. Either is incomplete, in error, misdirection, or more needs to be understood.

If the US doesn't want speculation on this ground station, then it should not have discussed the issue. However, by revealing something which doesn't make sense, the question is, if this is really what is going on -- that of the US developing a ground station in Australia, but it not making sense, then there are some issues for the public to review:

___ Why isn't the US willing to create a ground station in the United States that will do the same function, and provide jobs to Americans? The US government has B2s located in Missouri, and pilots can return to their homes after bombing Iraq. Why not have the same local-access for Satellite operations.

___ Is there something about the Australian government who has provided access to the US, but despite not getting the F22, the US has given the Australians something else?

___ Has the intelligence and foreign affairs committee been made aware of what the US has provided in exchange for the access to the Australian land?

* * *

The President when he decides to expand combat support infrastructure, eventually has to have US personnel visit, control, and mange those facilities. Perhaps everything is OK.

On the other hand, there are some things which don't make sense:

___ If the US wants to control satellites over Central Asia, why isn't it in Central Asia where it is controlling the satellites?

___ If this "war on terror" is global, why isn't the US able to work with the Russians, and build a ground station in the Russian land?

___ Is there something the US cannot do in Turkey or the Middle East, which it can do in Australia?

Based only on the announcement of this ground station, which may or may not be true, there are a few other issues:

___ What is the US perspective of the security situation in non-Australian countries;

___ Has the US done something that would put at risk the international good will that might support putting ground stations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iraq?

* * *

Recall the lessons of Iran and Iraq: The US doesn’t have HUMNIT resources to know what is going on with the weapons flowing to Iraq.

Building satellites and ground stations doesn't address the 9-11 Commission problem related to lack of HUMINT. Rather, making more satellites and ground stations, especially outside the Middle East, indicates the following:

1. The US has less support that it did after Sept 2001, and cannot trust our "good friends" in the Middle East to provide security for the satellite ground station; yet, there is the argument that Stealth Aircraft can be based on the Middle East;

2. The US, despite a known problem with HUMNIT, is putting more energy into capturing electronic data, imagery, and other ELINT from the area of interest.

* * *

___ Was the Australian Ground station imagined as a technical, operational solution before Sept 2001?

___ What was the decision date for this ground station?

Answer: IOC is 2008, which means that the 1999 concept, despite Sept 2001, continued. It appears, based on what we knew in 1999, the real threat, in 1999 was China; and this combat support system has been repackaged to support the "new" era. This is the same convoluted thinking which drove the US to bungle the operation in Iraq.

___ How has this ground-combat-support-concept been vetted in light of the combat losses in Iraq?

___ If this sytem were in place, woudl the US have been able to do something it could not do?

___ Is this technical solution looking for an excuse for continued funding?

Answer: Notice the initial trade studies: They were not very long, just a matter of months. This indicates the concept was not a novel approach, but a modernization of existing technical solutions.

___ Does the problem this technical solution proposes to solve help us with what is going on on the battlefield?

It looks as though the contracting community in 1999, two years before Sept 2001, proposed a novel technical solution based on what may have been improvement over the Gulf War I combat lessons. However, they appear hard pressed, in light of the "new war of Sept 2001" to explain why this technical approach deserves support, especially in light of the possible tradeoffs depriving funds from the HUMINT community.

___ How much money was earmarked for this satellite concept in exchange or as a payoff for the satellite community support for a fighter weapon system modernization that may or may not be justified?

Recall the lesson of Iraq, AlQueda, and Iran: The opponent is moving without using electronic data, but using couriers. Although the proposed system supports US troops, the US appears hard pressed to demonstrate it can use this system, especially in Iraq, when the US is merely quickly moving against an enemy that is not cooperating.

The US can spend all sorts of money on technical solutions. Faster data doesn't mean that the enemy is better managed. The enemy adjusts; ground stations do not. Satellites, last time I checked, do not create a barrier to IEDs.

I would hate to think, despite America's love of technology, that an enemy that refuses to cooperate with its destruction might, by removing itself from the Internet, have a competitive advantage. Osama has no satellites and lives in a cave; America has big satellites, big losses, with waning world support.

___ Why despite this technical data, is the US unable to prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan?

___ How are satellite-supported data management systems for combat troops driving commanders and combatant commanders to believe in their prospects of success without considering what is able to move faster than these technical solutions?

___ How have enemy forces, in light of the US use of technical solutions, adjusted their approaches to warfare, making this technical solution from 1999 unhelpful going forward from 2008?

* * *

If the US, despite 9-11, cannot secure a facility in India or Turkey to support this activity, I would argue the US has a larger problem than a lack of intelligence data. The problem is that the US has less government and public support than had the US not done anything after Sept 2001.

I would encourage Congress to review the matter:

___ What else is really involved;

___ Where are the ground stations supporting the US reconnaissance;

___ Why the inconstant approach to announcing satellite-related operations: One standard on NSA, "We can't discuss it," vs. the opposite approach on the Australian ground station: Openly sharing the details;

___ How is this satellite-support center going to entrench the emphasis on satellite-approaches to intelligence gathering, and not address the real problem: Lack of public support for the US; and lack of HUMINT resources in the Middle East.

* * *

The US needs to be clear with what it is concerned about with China and Russia. Rather than doing things that antagonize the Chinese, thereby prompting a ground station in Australia, perhaps the US could change its approach.

It appears the US has a problem with China, but isn't able to effectively demonstrate a viable governance-alternative to the world.

Instead of building ground stations in Australia to monitor China, perhaps the US might be better to build desalination tanks off the coast of Palestine and Somalia to support economic development.

The ground station in Australia doesn't appear to be linked with solely a military goal, but with a policy that appears to view itself as being isolated and cornered.

The way forward is to look at the economic development options the US is giving up in Africa; and how the US abuse of power is leaving in the mind of the world community that the Chinese are a viable option to US power.

* * *

If the US is building a ground station in Australia, the way forward is to public examine what this means in terms of what the US government fears; what it does not have; and what its thinking is behind why it is not working with Turkey and Pakistan.

If the perceived threat driving this satellite ground station is really China and not terrorism, then the answer to America’s security problems isn't to keep gathering more information, but change its actions so that the world is inclined to support HUMINT sources.

The US announcement on the Australian ground stations may be just about ground stations. But it appears to linked with something larger related to American government setbacks, closed options,

* * *

The goal here isn't to expose US classified activities, but to encourage an open discussion of things that don't make sense; and prompt a discussion for what the US government is or isn't doing.

If, as it appears, the US government views its options as being limited, and it must do something in Australia that "should" be able to be done with our "allies in the war on terror," something else needs to get examined:

___ Are we having to do things because our options are limited;

___ Rather than focus on satellites, and put energy into avoiding the real problem, would it be better to pursue policies that would encourage the world to support the US, and not require the US to, in effect, hide in Australia.

If the US, despite the losses of Sept 2001, has less support and cannot build ground stations and has less able HUMINT resources, then building a facility in Australia is only a temporary technical solution to a symptom: The lack of world support for the US.

The way forward is not to celebrate ground stations which further take us down the road to technical solutions -- which failed prior to Sept 2001 -- but examine the policy linked with apparently forcing the US to choose technical approaches to what are fundamentally different problems related to issues of State.

* * *

___ How was the State Department involved in the inputs to the decision to create this ground station?

___ Why is Taiwan not a suitable alternative to monitoring China?

___ Has the situation with Iran and Russia deteriorated so much since 9-11 that the US cannot work with either to jointly combat the global threats?

___ Are US stealth aircraft based in Dubai and other nations at risk for security reasons which were or were not raised as arguments related to the ground station in Australia?