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U.S. National Reconnaissance Office to Get New Charter

WASHINGTON?A new charter that would give the U.S. National Reconnaissance Officefullbudget authority for its own programs is expected to be approved in thecomingweeks by the secretary of defense and director national intelligence,the NRO's top officialsaid Sept. 13.

TheNRO,which builds andoperates the nation's classifiedspysatellites,currently can decide whenmost of its programs areready to move from the research and development phase to production.For selectprograms, however, the so-called milestone decision authority iscontrolled bythe Office of the Secretary of Defense. The NRO will take charge of allitsprograms under the new charter, NRO Director Bruce Carlson said at theannualAir Force Association conference here.

Asan agencythat serves both the Defense Department and intelligence community, theNRO isoften given program requirements that are at odds. Thenew charterwill give the NROdirector the ability to call a meeting of the agency's two bosses, thesecretary of defense and director of national intelligence, to ensurenewprograms are being conceived in an executable manner, Carlson said.

"I'mnot going to start a program where the requirements aren't matched totheresources," Carlson said.

Meanwhile,the NRO is entering a critical eight-month period in which it plans tolaunchfive nationalsecuritysatellites,starting with an Atlas 5 launch now slated for Sept. 20.

Thesenewspacecraft are planned to replace satellites in rapidly agingconstellationsthat have far outlived their design lives, Carlson said.

"Thisis the most aggressive launch campaign we've had in 20 years," Carlsonsaid.

Thisarticle was provided by SpaceNews,dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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