Jeffrey LewisDouble Secret Probation: MDA Classifies Classification of STSS Cost

Space News asks, in an editorial, why MDA has classified basic budget and schedule information for the third Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS) satellite. Not only is the non-technical information classified, but the reasons for which it was classified also are classified.

“Which,” Space News asks, “begs the question: Is the reason for classifying the reason for classifying the STSS cost and schedule information also classified?”

More seriously:

  • Could a U.S. adversary, North Korea for example, use basic cost and schedule information about an experimental STSS satellite to thwart U.S. missile defenses or compromise national security in any other way?
  • Or, is the MDA using classification to limit congressional oversight and public disclosure on a program with a well-documented history of runaway cost growth and lengthy delays?

Given the program’s troubled history, you have to look long and hard at No. 2. After all, GAO recently recommended that “MDA focus spending to assessing what needs to be done to complete work on existing satellite components so that it has a reasonable basis for its cost and scheduling estimates.” [Emphasis mine]

Or, MDA could just classify the estimates so that no knows how unreasonable they are.

Note: I originally thought Victoria Samson at CDI wrote this as a letter to the editor; I was wrong.