The U.S. Department of Defense needs to dramatically improve its ability to detect, track, and target mobile theater missiles and other moving systems, Marcel Lettre, acting under secretary of defense for intelligence, said Thursday during his GEOINT 2015 keynote.
Precision-guided, mobile theater ballistic and cruise missiles fielded by potential adversaries present a growing danger to American naval forces and overseas bases. But DOD’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities are struggling to keep tabs on such threats, Lettre said.
“Today, we have good ISR against fixed targets but less so against mobile systems,” he declared.
DOD tried to address the mobile target problem a decade ago with the Space Radar program, but the satellite effort failed to materialize. So the department has gone back to the drawing board.
“We believe the future solution is an integrated overhead architecture, a system of multiple layers tightly linked with airborne systems,” Lettre said. “The ability to stare or to rapidly revisit any region we are interested in could enable a much more effective ISR system for targeting mobile threats.”
The GEOINT Community stands to play a major role in providing this potential solution.
“Persistent GEOINT is key to effective tracking of mobile systems, be they ballistic missile transporter erector launchers (TELs), air defense units, mobile command-and-control headquarters, or ships at sea,” Lettre said.
Lettre also expressed concern about the growing threat from anti-satellite weapons being developed by China and Russia.
DOD, in partnership with the Intelligence Community, “is ensuring that our future space-based ISR capabilities, including GEOINT collectors, are resilient against these threats and continue to provide support even in heavily contested conflicts,” Lettre said. “In essence, we believe our future space systems will need to be routinely designed to survive against various threats, just as our other air, naval, and ground systems have traditionally been.”
In other comments, Lettre said DOD is working to integrate its Joint Information Environment with the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise. Connecting those two information networks must recognize that DOD and the Intelligence Community have differences in culture, operational climates, and mission requirements, he indicated.
Lettre also said DOD continues to evaluate what resources it must devote to the Arctic region, which is experiencing increasing shipping traffic as sea ice declines.
“It’s an emerging area where I think, analytically, the IC can lead us to some insights about the implications for the security posture,” he said. “It also ties in a little bit to the discussion we have underway about what is the future relationship the U.S. has with Russia, as we’ve seen some of the unproductive acts that the Russian government and military have taken in the last couple years.”