National Intelligence Folly: How an Unsolved Murder Led to Billions of Dollars of Program Fraud, Waste and Abuse Part 2

We left off in Part 1 with the first act in a play-of sorts-where SECDEF Rumsfeld was trying to work a power play to have his brand spanking new Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USDI)-Dr. Stephen Cambone-start to exemplify the type of skills, knowledge and abilities (KSA in government parlance) necessary to lead elements of the intelligence community (IC,) as would be expected by the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI) position being debated in congress as this meeting took place. I would be remiss if I did not add for reference that Dr. Cambone was a Los Alamos scientist who had participated and made an impression on the SECDEF as a scientific lead for the Rumsfeld Commission mentioned in Part 1. He was certainly confident that he had the support of the SECDEF in any endeavor undertaken…

The point of this meeting was for Cambone to get the bad dogs of the IC to “heel” who were holding up goodness, rainbows, unicorns, sparkles and light represented by this program that was seemingly the number one priority for the department. Mark Lowenthal was the CIA Director of Analysis/Intelligence and Co-Chairman of the CIA led Mission Requirements Board (MRB-equivalent Intelligence Community (IC) companion forum to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council-JROC,)) and he advised Dr. Cambone that given the collective positions of the principals on the MRB, including the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO,) the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA,) the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA,) and the CIA, as well as the Community Management Staff, they believed the CONOPS under review needed major structural revisions to reflect how the community did its business with such a program and that it was simply not ready for “this level of staffing.”

The MRB also thought it unwise to push a flawed document through the process at this point and risk the wrath of congress, which would likely second guess the veracity of the program because of obviously flawed documentation that did not accurately reflect the way the community did business: he said it feels like the community is getting the “bum’s rush” over the staffing.

In part 1 I briefly listed the Joint Chiefs of Staff review levels in terms of 0-5/LTC, 0-6/COL/Capt, and Flag or General Officer. The CONOPS in question was being pushed by Air Force Space Command, Director of Requirements (AFSPC-DR) as if it was mature enough to warrant general officer review: Mark Lowenthal was just stating the obvious-it was extremely rare and an exception for a program to start at the FO/GO review level. There was no evidence that this program warranted such special treatment. There was also the feeling among staff officers that it took a lot of “chutzpah” for the USAF to put their leadership in the position of fighting for a document that was an unmitigated “piece.”

The price of poker went up at this point when Cambone shut his notebook, stood up, looked at Mark and said, “If you are not going to support this effort, I will share your opinion with the Secretary of Defense:” well la di da…Mark said “I never said we weren’t going to support it, I thought we were having a discussion here Steve. What’s the rush?”

There was somewhat of an awkward pause in the action as you can imagine. I was sitting behind Mark looking right at Cambone, honestly thinking, what an idjiot (although I liked him, and he was a very intelligent scientist: but he wasn’t an intel guy, and he had no business running intelligence for the department (but nobody asked me.)) Since he hadn’t left yet-I offered up that my boss was not going to support it without considerable changes that we had passed to AFSPC from the community, and he had stated that position in a conversation with AFSPC Commander General Lord and at the previous Saturday morning meeting up at the National Security Agency that he-Dr. Cambone-co-chaired with CIA Collections Chief Charlie Allen. And that was based on the fact that none of our comments as the Geospatial Intelligence Functional Manager, representing input from the community, had been incorporated or changed in the document despite our best efforts: we had no reasonable response or cooperation from AFSPC.

I also told him “The boss” had talked with Director NRO and Undersecretary of the Air Force (Space) Mr. Teets, who seemed to think it was good enough to get a pass through the process at this point of the staffing, but that viewpoint was not informed by the mood of congress over this program right now. But the boss had no reason to change that position and I wasn’t recommending or advising it.

Dr. Cambone sat back down and asked for specifics-substantive issues related to the document-and was given a good half hour-an earful-of issues by David Kawasaki on behalf of the MRB Secretariat, as well as a representative of the Collections shop from Charlie Allen’s office, and I provided an update based on a United States Imagery and Geospatial Services (USIGS) Community Evaluation Group (UCEG) session, as well as a system program Requirements and Capabilities Group (RCG) comment review and deconfliction session we hosted.

I also related that we sent staff out to meet with the AFSPC-DR and staff -Brig Gen Tom Sheridan and Brig Gen Willie Shelton and their requirements lead, Lt Col Jim Pizzarro, after the UCEG and RCG meetings, prior to the previous Saturday morning meeting to stress the deficiencies in the document, to provide alternative verbiage that was submitted as part of the review process, and to recommend it be staffed at a lower level until it passes muster.

I also related that what really hardened community positions was when AFSPC did not adopt any of the comments from the community and made only spelling corrections to the document, followed by a request for concurrence on the original document, since there were no “critical” comments. Which is why the boss talked with General Lord: and here we are now in some type of faux crisis mode several levels above the warranted JCS staffing process. It was a non-starter and was going to end in tears on the hill…just not a smart way to do the staffing.

I ended up participating in an “elephants” session in Colorado Springs with my immediate boss (SES 5) and a bunch of community senior civilians and general officers where Brig Gen Bob Kehler, National Security Space Integration lead for Director NRO Mr. Peter B. Teets, led a session to eliminate the totally wrong parts and to tweak the mostly wrong parts and to mediate the pieces where AFSPC was trying to declare themselves in charge of the satellite tasking world, to get them acceptable: it was a lot of work, caused by the simple fact that the AFSPC staff simply was not in this business and had not bothered to integrate subject matter expert input in the document.

The document was eventually approved by Mr. Teets, who decided he was the authority to do so, and it was close enough at this point considering it was at least 6 years until launch and there was plenty of time to work the details: congress disagreed and was not happy that the hard issues were not being driven to closure on the program.

Oh, and congress would some several years later kill the program because of continued problems like the above that undermined credibility in the USAF capability to deliver the system within budget.

The above was a classic example of Pentagon and service power politics that attempted to circumvent protocols, procedures and safeguards to the detriment of the community. But all to say, I don’t think it is a huge ask for dear reader to follow the details on some of these stories. And while some may dispute my facts as inter-service squabbles or rivalries, or misinterpretation of the facts, much like we will see in the folly in Iraq as it fell apart after Maddox was fired in 2014, Austin came in and it clearly and demonstrably went to “hell in a handbasket:” many of these exemplars are pretty cut and dry. It may take some artistic finessing to communicate it in an unclassified document, but the sequence of what I’m going to cover is clearly-in my mind-pretty much cause and effect between events. But I am going to relate the story and dear reader can let me know if the dots connect as I describe-or not. So let’s get to it, shall we?

If you drive about 5 miles south from Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia, or north about 7 miles coming out of Manassas past 29 or out of Herndon heading north on 28, you pass by four magnificent blue tinted symmetrical towers laid out in what looks like 15 degree quadrants of separation from maybe 65 to 80 to 95 and 110 degrees or so running west to east surrounded by fencing with lights that appear to contain video surveillance cameras along the walkway that rings what looks to be a modern campus of some type.

The splendiferous National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) headquarters still stands out very well, although not like it did initially when you could count the number of buildings around it-including the police station later constructed about a block away-on one hand. Many will know of the building and the location, having attended the famous Dulles Gun Show across the street for years and years or hit the original McDonalds, Taco Bell or stayed at the Holiday Inn close by.

If you are signed in via the visitors center you will need to drop to the first floor, or badge in through the gate and enter the front entrance just past the flagpoles, that leads directly to the cafeteria. To your left just inside is somewhat of an information/security counter manned by admin and security officers. Mounted on the wall by the desk there is a non-descript plaque on the wall of what looks like a young black female security officer, a tribute in recognition of Tina Frances Ricca.

Tina-27-was a security guard two years into working for Vance International, Oakton, Va, under contract to Rockwell, working at a construction site in the so-called Westfields area of Chantilly, Va. She had already finished her shift one night and was filling in for a co-worker who was on duty with the National Guard, when she was found murdered by one shot to the upper body, 6 November 1993, in an adjacent construction area: the killer has never been found. She wasn’t wearing her bullet proof vest and her weapon and radio were missing.

It is no exaggeration that her tragic death led to cataclysmic events, including the outing or declassification of one of the most secret construction projects in government history, the further declassification of one of our governments most secret organizations, the later firing of the head of the NRO and later still a series of program actions that resulted in national program waste of some nearly 20 billion dollars.

End of Part 2

13 October 2022

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