November 1, 2006

South Bay expected to gain from renewed U.S. space effort
Increased spending on the space program through the El Segundo-based Los Angeles Air Force Base will mean contracts for South Bay aerospace companies and hopefully jobs.

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON -- The commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base on Tuesday predicted "significant growth" in spending on space programs in the years ahead.

Some growth will be necessary because of the demand for new space systems and the requirement to replace current systems that wear out, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael A. Hamel said.

Hamel's command in El Segundo is responsible for developing and procuring space and missile programs, including satellites, ground stations, space-launch capabilities and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Systems under his authority cost more than $10 billion last year.

Many of those systems are managed or produced by Boeing, Northrop Grumman or Lockheed Martin units in Southern California.

Although Hamel could not provide specifics on the fiscal year 2008 budget, which will be released in February, he said, "We would expect there to be some growth." He cited the number of large space programs that are being developed or acquired.

In his first session with Washington-based defense reporters since assuming command 18 months ago, Hamel described the efforts he and Ronald Sega, the former Air Force acquisition executive, have made to correct an array of problems that have plagued space procurement programs.

Hamel attributed the technical failures, program delays and cost overruns to a combination of budget cuts and acquisition reforms that depleted Air Force supervision of development details in the 1990s.

By putting "a lot more rigor back into the engineering and program management" and establishing a "much closer partnership with industry," he said, "we made a lot of progress."

He specifically cited the Space-Based Infrared satellite program, which was to be a key improvement to the missile defense program but had fallen far behind schedule.

Now, he said, the program "is back on track and moving ahead."

Hamel also praised the recently completed project to trade excess air base property to a real estate developer to get a new office complex at his headquarters near Los Angeles International Airport.

"We refer to 2006 as the year of rebirth of the Air Force Space and Missile Center," he said.

Although there was some criticism of the land exchange, Hamel said, "the U.S. taxpayers got a $125 million office complex, 650,000 square feet, for the value of the land that's now undergoing redevelopment. ... It really is an extraordinary case study in public-private partnership."

Data provided by Hamel's command showed the center puts $1.3 billion into the local economy and employs 4,493 military personnel, government civilian employees and contract workers.