Barrett, Rogers consider declassifying secretive space programs
SIMI VALLEY, California — The U.S. Air Force’s top civilian and a key member of Congress agreed Saturday on the need to declassify a large amount of information about America’s military space programs to both intimidate foes and encourage support among the public.
Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Barbara Barrett says that declassifying intelligence is key to combating the growing threat to the the nation's space capabilities, and the sooner the better. (Wayne Clark/U.S. Air Force)
“Declassifying some of what is currently held in secure vaults would be a good idea,” Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said during a panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum. “You would have to be careful about what we declassify, but there is much more classified than what needs to be.”
Fellow panelist Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said he met with the secretary earlier in the week to discuss that very issue, calling the information on space programs “overwhelmingly classified.”
In order to combat the growing threat China poses to American businesses, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., says that the United States needs to declassify more intelligence so that officials can more clearly communicate the challenges American companies face from China.
For Rogers, that overclassification is one of the reasons it’s been so difficult for him and others to build support both in the public and with other members of Congress for a Space Force, a sixth branch of the military under the Air Force uniquely focused on space as a war-fighting domain.
“As members of the Armed Services Committee and the defense appropriators, we get it. But we have to have our other colleagues in the Congress to be supportive of us making the changes we need and the resources we need into this,” he said. "It’s not going to happen until they understand the threat and the dependence we have. And I don’t think that can happen until we see significant declassification of what we’re doing in space and what China and Russia are doing, and how space is in their day-to-day lives.”
Once Americans have access to that currently classified data, they will throw their support behind a Space Force, he concluded.
“The lack of an understanding really does hurt us in doing things that we need to do in space,” added Barrett. “There isn’t a constituency for space even though almost everyone uses space before their first cup of coffee in the morning.”