TRW Executive Vice President Timothy Hanneman was so incensed that he personally protested the leak to Undersecretary of Defense John Deutch in a meeting last month, according to military officials familiar with the meeting. Hanneman declined to comment.
A Lockheed spokeswoman said the company conducted an internal investigation into the matter and found no wrongdoing.
And Carl Fisher, president of Aerojet's electronic systems division, wrote a letter to Air Force investigators in recent weeks asserting that the Air Force had "launched an effort to discredit the (DSP) study" and that Aerojet technology was also leaked to both TRW and Lockheed so they could discredit Aerojet. He said information about the DSP-II was being "suppressed."
Fisher added that the Air Force had "threatened and intimidated" TRW officials into not helping Aerojet with DSP-II. "Use of intimidation to suppress information unfairly tipped the playing field in favor of FEWS," he wrote.
Fisher declined to comment.
Meanwhile, the efforts of the Air Force to defend FEWS may have backfired. Deutch is reportedly leaning toward canceling the project in the fiscal 1995 budget that will be issued in January. Two federal advisory panels have already recommended that the Air Force save money by simply upgrading the DSP.
The looming cutbacks in the military space budget have hit the once elite industry hard, upsetting longstanding relationships and changing the business' culture.
"There was a presumption in this industry that their contracts and programs were like a Catholic marriage, one that went on forever," Wheelon said. "There are thousands of engineers in this industry who got out of college, went to work and retired without ever working on more than one program their entire careers."
Although total spending on military space is a secret, analysts estimate that about $15 billion is spent annually on space hardware and technology, down no more than $1 billion or $2 billion from its peak in recent years. By contrast, the overall Pentagon budget for procurement is down 50% from its mid-1980s peak.
"People are saying if you chop the Marine Corps budget, then how come the space cadets can't take their share," said John Pike, a space expert at the Federation of American Scientists.
Space advocates counter that surveillance is more important than ever because the United States will have smaller forces and must keep its eye on more regional hot spots. But critics say the United States has more than enough spying capability, although nobody suggests that the government drop its guard and not have an early-warning system.
The current DSP uses infrared scanners to search the Earth for heat that a ballistic missile would generate at launch. Each 10 seconds, a DSP in orbit transmits a snapshot to ground controllers, continuously monitoring the world for any attack on the United States.
During the Cold War, DSP was used chiefly to monitor the Soviet Union for a nuclear missile launch. Today, the military wants an early-warning system that could be used to detect shorter-range missiles used in regional conflicts, such as the scuds used by Iraq.
But rocket engines on short-range missiles burn out quickly. In order to track such a missile, a new DSP or FEWS would have to make observations every few seconds. In addition, FEWS was conceived during the Cold War and has sophisticated features useful in a nuclear war.
Dietz wrote a series of memos, obtained by The Times, that attempted to alert his superiors to the possibilities that a simple upgrade to the DSP could provide much of the capability the Air Force needed, although with less nuclear war fighting capability. As the debate evolved, Dietz asserted that his superiors were trying to distort the process.
In September, he wrote to his immediate superiors that Horner, the general, and his staff "were clearly misinformed" about the DSP-II. Moreover, their factual errors gave the "appearance of bias," Dietz said. In other memos, he warned of distortions of facts and that the decision making was "inconsistent and illogical."
The controversy occurred during turmoil in the leadership of the Los Angeles Space and Missile Systems Center. Lt. Gen. Edward Barry Jr., for whom Dietz worked, had been rebuked earlier by Defense Secretary Les Aspin for his involvement in a secret bailout of McDonnell Douglas' C-17 cargo jet program. In June, Barry's authority in acquisition matters was revoked, preventing him from trying to settle the dispute.
The controversy also poses a threat to Aerospace Corp., a nonprofit corporation that acts as the Air Force's engineer and architect for spacecraft. In an announcement to employees, Aldridge acknowledged that the firm's "objectivity was challenged" and that it had failed "to distinguish carefully between analysis and advocacy."
Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which requested the DSP report in the first place, has steered clear of the controversy. But Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, has asked the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate the allegations.
"If true, this would be an extremely serious--and possibly criminal--withholding of information vital to congressional deliberations," Conyers said in a letter last month to the inspector general.