Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced a major revamping of how the Pentagon manages its space programs to "sustain the United States' position as the world's leading space-faring nation."
He disclosed plans for a series of changes aimed at sharpening the Pentagon's focus on space, including creation of a four-star-general slot with broad responsibilities for space programs.
Rumsfeld outlined the changes in a letter to Congress, copies of which were released at the Pentagon. He also held a news conference to spell out his vision.
"We can arrange the Department of Defense to focus on meeting the national security needs of the 21st century and sustain the United States' position as the world's leading space-faring nation," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld said he would assign broader responsibilities to the Air Force Space Command, based at Colorado Springs, Colo., and put a four-star general in charge of providing the resources to execute space programs and operations.
His letter did not say who would fill the new post.
Rumsfeld said he consulted with CIA Director George Tenet on the Pentagon's organizational changes and that Tenet concurred.
In the existing military structure, the four-star Air Force general who is commander in chief of U.S. Space Command currently Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart also holds the positions of commander in chief of North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Air Force Space Command.
Rumsfeld has made it well known that he believes more emphasis should be placed on organizing, unifying and strengthening the military's efforts in space operations and research. One aspect of this is likely to include th role of satellites in the missile defense system that President Bush has committed the nation to building. Another aspect may be protecting U.S. satellites against attack.
Rumsfeld resigned from the commission after his nomination. Congress required that once the commission submitted its report to the secretary of defense, he must inform Congress how he intended to respond. Rumsfeld was using Tuesday's news conference to spell out his response.
The upshot of the commission's report, which naturally reflected some of Rumsfeld's own views, was that defense and intelligence space programs are organized and managed in ways that fail to reflect the growing importance of space to U.S. national security.
The commission said a lack of attention by the government to its satellites and space policy makes the United States "an attractive candidate for a space Pearl Harbor."
The United States depends on space more than any other country for surveillance and other military operations, weather forecasts, cell phone connections yet the White House, Congress and various government agencies fail to make space protection a top priority, the panel concluded.
The commission also said military conflicts in space are inevitable.
"We know from history that every medium air, land and sea has seen conflict," the commission's report said. "Reality indicates that space will be no different. Given this virtual certainty, the United States must develop the means both to deter and to defend against hostile acts in and from space."
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