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US Air Force, CBO Disagree On Extent Of Space Radar Costs January 16, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Military News, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–An ambitious U.S. spy satellite program has great potential to take clear pictures of enemy targets, at great cost to the nation’s coffers.

Just how great a cost is subject to debate. While Space Radar fights for funding, a new Congressional Budget Office study suggests its price tag could be as much as $94 billion, far higher than the government expects.

The Air Force says that figure isn’t in the cards. The Space Radar program office plans a nine-satellite constellation that costs around $20 billion to $25 billion, the Air Force said.

“The CBO analysis of ‘Space Radar alternatives’ assesses several alternatives for constellations that are larger, heavier and much more technologically challenging than the current Space Radar concepts being considered,” the Air Force said, when asked about the January 2007 CBO study.

CBO says the cost depends on how precise the radar images need to be. It takes an in-depth look at technology options for looking through clouds and tracking moving targets, two of Space Radar’s goals.

But even the Air Force cost estimate could be more money than Space Radar will ever get. Right now, the Pentagon has awarded low-level research contracts to Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) through 2009.

Air Force officials have said they need funding support from U.S. intelligence agencies for Space Radar to reach its potential. Analysts say the program may be doomed.

“The obvious implication here is that there isn’t going to be a Space Radar. The amounts of money involved are simply too large,” said Lexington Institute defense analyst Loren Thompson.

“There’s no question that the technology exists to make this program work and that it could be revolutionary. Unfortunately, there’s any number of cutting edge technologies that we can’t afford to buy,” Thompson said.

By Rebecca Christie, Dow Jones Newswires

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