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White House objects to imagery provision in Defense Bill

US: The administration of US President Barack Obama has objected to a provision in a Senate Defense Bill that places several restrictions on the purchase of commercial satellite imagery by the Pentagon, according to a White House statement.

The Senate version of the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill, drafted in May, includes a provision barring the Pentagon from entering into new imagery purchase contracts after 2010 unless the satellites in question have 1.5-meter telescopes.  

As per the White House’s website, “Since the commercial satellite industry does not currently builds 1.5-meter satellites, this provision would require considerable additional government investment, and is not required to meet defence or intelligence requirements.” The website further states,  “Further, by stipulating a predetermined commercial solution, this provision could negatively impact the commercial data providers, limit innovation in commercial technology, and increase the risks on future government contracts for commercial data services.”

The US National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in August awarded contracts worth as much as USD 7.3 billion over 10 years to the two primary U.S. commercial imagery providers, DigitalGlobe and GeoEye. GeoEye’s contract will help finance construction of a new 1.1-meter-aperture satellite slated for launch in 2012.

Both contracts feature a one-year base period with nine one-year options. It is unclear whether the bill language would permit NGA to help finance additional commercial satellites with apertures narrower than 1.5 meters.

Source: space.com