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Analysis

Conflicts in Space

Most former officials advocating for Space Force had ties—often financial—to space industry
(Illustration: CJ Ostrosky / POGO)

One of the issues that will be decided in this year’s annual defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, will be whether Congress approves the president’s request to create a Space Force. An analysis by the Project On Government Oversight shows that, as is often the case, the people lobbying Congress to support its creation aren’t being transparent about their own financial interests.

POGO found that 39 of the 42 have current or past financial ties to companies that are likely to benefit from the establishment of a Space Force.

Forty-two former defense and intelligence officials signed an open letter this year expressing their “strong support” for the Space Force as a necessary and vital part of the overall national security infrastructure. The open letter, published in May 2019, does not disclose the actual and potential financial ties nearly all of the signatories have to companies that may profit from increased federal spending in the defense and space sectors.

When the letter was first released, Politico noted several of the signatories had financial ties to the space industry. A deeper analysis by POGO found that 39 of the 42 have current or past financial ties to companies that are likely to benefit from the establishment of a Space Force. Those who signed the letter did not violate conflict of interest laws, but those named highlight the coziness within the military-industrial complex, and that many of those promoting the Space Force are not independent voices.

Many of the officials sit on the boards of directors of major defense contractors with long-standing relationships with the Air Force, the Space Force’s parent service. Satellite operations are expected to be a top Space Force responsibility, opening contracting opportunities for companies developing and maintaining satellite technologies. Several officials who signed the letter work for commercial satellite companies or companies with products that rely on satellite technology.

When asked about their financial interests in the creation of a Space Force, one signatory told POGO it was “none of your business.” Several other signatories said there was significant uncertainty in industry as to whether creating this force would be better for their bottom line. For example, retired Air Force Colonel Douglas Loverro told POGO that he felt signing the letter could be to their financial detriment, since the Air Force has been opposed to the creation of an independent Space Force. Several signatories told POGO that to their knowledge there weren’t any companies involved in organizing the letter. Unclear on whether a Space Force would increase budgets or take money away from other existing industry contracts, former deputy commander of Cyber Command Kevin McLaughlin told POGO that industry was “a cat on a hot tin roof.”  Pentagon officials and the defense industry have both said that the defense industry has faced challenges anticipating what the Pentagon wants to buy.  

Some of the signatories have ties to more than one company in the space industry. For example, retired Air Force General Lester Lyles, former vice chief of staff of the Air Force, is on the board of directors of General Dynamics and KBR, and was on the board of directors of Battelle. Retired Air Force General Lance Lord, former commander of Air Force Space Command, is on the board of directors of Aerojet RocketDyne and the advisory board of Iridium Communications, a satellite manufacturer. And retired Navy Admiral Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence, has ties to Lockheed Martin and Iridium. Longtime POGO readers might remember Blair violated conflict of interest laws in the past when he was president of the Institute for Defense Analyses. In that case, the Department of Defense inspector general confirmed POGO’s finding that Blair had failed to divest from two F-22 subcontractors while the institute was evaluating whether the program met multiyear procurement requirements.

Lockheed Martin

Ten of the signatories are now or were employed by Lockheed Martin, which has received more than $116 billion in contracts from the Air Force and $19.7 billion from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data. Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the letter but told POGO that they “[welcome] the Administration’s continued focus on space policy and related issues.”

  • Blair is a member of Lockheed Martin’s Space Strategic Advisory Group.
  • Retired Air Force Brigadier General Sebastian Coglitore, former director of space programs for the Air Force, formerly worked for Lockheed Martin.
  • Retired Navy Admiral James Ellis Jr., former commander of U.S. Strategic Command, is on Lockheed Martin’s board of directors. According to company filings, Ellis has received $3.46 million in total compensation since joining the board in 2004.
  • Retired Air Force Colonel Pamela Melroy, former astronaut, was a deputy program manager at Lockheed Martin. When reached for comment, she noted her current company, Nova Systems, has no contracts or connections to the United States government.
  • David Kier, former deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office and former principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for space, was vice president and managing director of missile defense at Lockheed Martin.
  • Edward “Pete” Aldridge, former secretary of the Air Force and former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, was a member of the board of directors at Lockheed Martin from 2003 to 2011. According to company filings, Aldridge received $1.2 million in compensation from Lockheed.
  • Jeffrey Harris, former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, was president of Lockheed Martin’s missile and space division and their special programs division. Mr. Harris told POGO that he was not contacted by any companies about the letter, nor did he think they were aware of it, and that he signed the letter based on concerns he heard from other current and former government officials that cyber and space missions were not being adequately prioritized.
  • Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Michael Hamel, former commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, is vice president of Commercial Space for Lockheed Martin.
  • Marc Berkowitz, former assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for space policy, is vice president for space security at Lockheed Martin. 
  • A. Thomas Young, former director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, was previously CEO of Martin Marietta, which merged with the Lockheed Corporation to become Lockheed Martin.

Raytheon

Six of the signatories are now or were previously employed by Raytheon, which has received $35 billion in contracts from the Air Force and $3.4 billion from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data. Raytheon leadership has said they hope that the Space Force would help contractors better align with the military.

  • Christopher Williams, former special assistant to the secretary of defense, lobbied for Raytheon from 2003 through 2006, according to data compiled by Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Retired Air Force General Ronald Fogleman, former chief of staff of the Air Force, was on the board of directors at Thales-Raytheon.
  • Retired Navy Vice Admiral David E. Frost, former deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, was a member of the board of directors of Photon Research Associates, now part of Raytheon.
  • Letitia Long, former director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, is on Raytheon’s board of directors. She has received nearly $1.2 million in total compensation since joining their board in 2015.
  • Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Brian Arnold, former commander of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, is vice president for space strategy at Raytheon.
  • Robert Work, former deputy secretary of defense, is on Raytheon’s board of directors. According to the company’s filings, he has received nearly $450,000 in total compensation since joining their board in 2017. “As a former deputy secretary of defense I was aware of the department’s efforts to establish the U.S. Space Force. The letter represents my personal views and not those of any other person or entity,” Work told POGO. “My understanding, confirmed in consultation with DoD ethics officials, is that the decision to establish a Space Force is a broad strategic and policy decision, which does not raise any conflicts of interest issues.”

Northrop Grumman

Five of the signatories are currently or were employed by Northrop Grumman, which has received $54 billion from the Air Force and $4.3 billion from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data. 

  • Williams lobbied for Northrop Grumman from 2003 to 2005.
  • Retired Air Force Major General Donald G. Hard, former director of space programs for the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, was president of Logicon Ultrasystems Inc., now part of Northrop Grumman.
  • Gary Payton, former deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space programs, was senior vice president of engineering and operations of ORBIMAGE, now part of Northrop Grumman.
  • Martin Faga, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for space and former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, was a member of the board of directors of Orbital ATK, now part of Northrop Grumman.
  • Tidal “Ty” McCoy, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, was vice president for government relations at Thiokol Propulsion, later bought by Northrop Grumman. He is chairman of the Space Transportation Association.

Booz Allen Hamilton

Four of the signatories are currently or were employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, which has received $8.8 billion from the Air Force and almost $350 million from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data. According to press reports, Booz Allen Hamilton is hoping to expand its space programs.

  • Mike McConnell, former director of national intelligence, is a senior executive advisor for Booz Allen Hamilton’s cyber security business.
  • Joan Dempsey, former Deputy Director of the CIA, is deputy director of defense and intelligence at Booz Allen Hamilton.
  • Retired Air Force General Thomas Moorman Jr., former vice chief of staff of the Air Force, was vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, where he was in charge of their Air Force and NASA contracts.
  • Keith Hall, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for space and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, was senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Inmarsat Government, Iridium, Peraton, and Hawkeye 360

Three of the signatories are on the board of directors of Inmarsat Government, a satellite communications company which was awarded a $246 million contract with the Air Force in June.

  • Duane Andrews, former assistant secretary of defense for command, control, and communications, is on the board of directors of Inmarsat Government.
  • Faga is on the board of directors at Inmarsat Government.
  • Ellis was on the board of directors of Inmarsat.

Lord is on the advisory board of Iridium, which received over $1 billion in satellite and airborne radio communications contracts in the last ten years. Blair was a member of the board of directors from 2003 to 2009.

Peraton (formerly the Harris Corporation), a cyber and space defense contractor, received $3 billion in contracts from the Air Force and $1.3 billion from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data. Harris and former Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Robert Cardillo are members of Peraton’s advisory board. Cardillo is also on the advisory boards of Cesium, a geospatial data company whose clients include Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and Beacon Global Strategies, a consulting firm with clients in the defense aerospace industry.

Five of the signatories, retired Air Force Colonel Douglas Loverro, Scott Large, Work, Cardillo and Long are advisors for HawkEye 360, a satellite-based analytics company.

Space Industry Consultants and Lobbyists

Four of the signatories are consultants or lobbyists for companies in the defense aerospace industry.

  • Retired Air Force Colonel Richard McKinney, former deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, runs the consulting firm RW McKinney, LLC, which has registered to lobby for clients in the aerospace industry.
  • Retired Air Force Lieutenant General James K. “Kevin” McLaughlin, former deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, is on the advisory board of Polaris Alpha, which has received $1.3 billion from the Air Force in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data. He also runs McLaughlin Global Associates, a space consulting firm.
  • Robert Walker, former member of Congress and chairman of the House Science Committee, is a senior advisor at Zero Gravity Solutions. He is also the CEO of his lobbying firm, MoonWalker Associates, which has clients in the space industry.
  • Charles Allen, former undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, is a principal for The Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm. The Chertoff group has worked for Polaris Alpha, H2M, and other clients in the geospatial and defense aerospace business.
  • Sue Payton, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, owns SCI Aerospace, Inc. Payton was also the manager of advanced technology in the office of the vice president at Lockheed Martin.

Additional Space Industry Interests

There are a number of individuals with links to other companies interested in the space industry.

  • Lyles is on the board of directors of General Dynamics, which has received $5 billion from the Air Force and $1.4 billion from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data. He has received over $3.5 million in total compensation according to company filings. Lyles is also chairman of the board of directors of KBR, which has received $1.3 billion from the Air Force and $822 million from NASA in the past ten years, and was on the board of Battelle, which has received $1.7 billion from the Air Force in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data.
  • Henry Cooper, former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, was chairman of Applied Research Associates, which has received $466 million from the Air Force and $4.6 million from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data.
  • Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Donald Cromer, former commander of the Air Force space and missile center, was president of Hughes Space and Communications, now part of Boeing, which has received $110 billion from the Air Force and $18.7 billion from NASA in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data.
  • Lord is on the board of directors for Aerojet RocketDyne, which has received nearly $4 billion in funding from NASA and an additional $430 million in contracts from the Air Force since 2008, according to federal contracting data. According to company filings, Lord has received over $750,000 in compensation from Aerojet RocketDyne since joining the board.
  • Melroy is on the board of directors of the Australian satellite company Myriota.
  • William Perry, former secretary of defense, is on the board of directors of LGS Bell Labs, now part of CACI International, which has received $653 million from the Air Force in the past ten years, according to federal contracting data.

Politico reported the letter itself was organized by Velos, a defense consulting firm whose clients include Northrop Grumman, Boeing’s Millennium Space Systems, Virgin Orbit, and other companies in the defense aerospace industry.

Federal Advisory Board Members and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers

Many of the letter’s signatories provide advice to the Pentagon about its acquisition decisions as part of federal advisory boards. As POGO wrote in The Politics of Contracting, members of these bodies “are in a position where they may support a specific policy that would benefit their private employer.” Equally troubling, that position may provide their employer an unfair advantage, as “an advisory committee member has the benefit of being privy to the government’s future needs and can advise his or her employer or client about likely future policies or programs.” Eight signatories have been members of defense and space-related federal advisory boards.

  • Lyles was the vice chairman of the Defense Science Board and a member of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Strategies for Ensuring the Resilience of National Space Capabilities.
  • Cromer was a member of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Acquisition of National Security Space Programs.
  • Perry is a member of the Defense Policy Board.
  • Moorman was a member of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Acquisition of National Security Space Programs.
  • Hard was a member of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Acquisition of National Security Space Programs.
  • Hall was a member of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Strategies for Ensuring the Resilience of National Space Capabilities. He is a member of the U.S. Strategic Command Senior Advisory Group.
  • Young was chairman of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Acquisition of National Security Space Programs.
  • Frost was a co-chair of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Defense Strategies for Ensuring the Resilience of National Space Capabilities, and a member of the Task Force on Acquisition of National Security Space Programs, and the Task Force on Contributions of Space Based Radar to Missile Defense.

Five of the signatories are current or former employees of The Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) that lobbies on defense issues. FFRDCs are research institutions funded by the federal government but operated by private companies or nonprofit organizations. The Aerospace Corporation’s lobbying raises concerns among ethics watchdogs about the independence of their analysis. At least one FFRDC is specifically prohibited from using federal funds to lobby for contract extensions, the Department of Energy Inspector General found. The Aerospace Corporation would not provide POGO their contract, however, so it is unclear if they are prohibited from doing so.

  • Retired Air Force Major General Howard Mitchell, former director of Air Force Space Command, was vice president of program assessments. According to company filings, he received nearly $3 million in compensation while a member of the board.
  • Moorman was vice chairman of the board of trustees. According to company filings, he received $280,000 in compensation while a member of the board.
  • Hall was a member of the board of trustees. According to company filings, Hall received $140,000 in compensation while a member of the board.
  • Cromer was chairman of the board of trustees. According to company filings, Cromer received $260,000 in compensation while a member of the board.
  • Walker was a member of the board of trustees. According to company filings, he received $300,000 while a member of the board.

Space Force Costs and Benefits Remain Uncertain

POGO and Taxpayers Protection Alliance have written that creating a separate service instead of ensuring the existing services are equipped to provide their own space support is likely to “add further bulk to the already bloated Pentagon bureaucracy without a corresponding capability increase.” In the House, appropriators also questioned the need to create a new bureaucracy. “It is fully within the Department [of Defense]’s current authority to make space a higher priority without creating a new military service,” they wrote.

Pentagon officials and budget analysts have provided a wide variety of estimates of start-up costs and annual operating budgets for a new service. Former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson suggested the Space Force could cost $13 billion over the next five years. Defense budget expert and Space Force proponent Todd Harrison estimated the initial cost to be closer to $1.5 billion to $2.7 billion, but has also found the Space Force could require an annual budget of up to $21.5 billion.

None of the other companies provided comments in response to POGO’s request.

The Space Force is yet to stand up, so it remains unclear exactly what kinds of contracts the agency might seek and how much these contracts would be worth. Companies already in the aerospace defense industry, especially those with contracts to provide some of the technology the Space Force would be expected to need, seem likely to benefit from its creation, and they are lining up at the trough waiting for the Defense Department to feed them. The signatories’ failure to disclose their actual and potential financial ties to industry is misleading to the members of Congress the letter was addressed to and to taxpayers who would eventually pay for a Space Force.