FIA Satellites

A Warning Sign?

A team from Boeing asked for $100 million just to put together its proposal for the FIA project [source: Taubman].

The Future Imagery Architecture program was designed to be the U.S. government's next-generation system of spy satellites, capable of operating at night or peering through poor weather. A contract for two satellites was awarded to the Boeing Company, which wasn't known for its ability to manufacture satellites with sophisticated optics.

­Boeing's design, which was highly ambitious in order to compete with the more experienced Lockheed Martin Corporation, ended up being too complex to be built. But before that conclusion was reached, Boeing often received faulty parts from suppliers or simply used the wrong ones. The government spent $10 billion on the project, about twice as much as was initially budgeted, before revoking the Boeing contract and turning to Lockheed Martin [source: Schachtman]. Boeing still asked for a $500 million "termination fee" and received $430 million for its troubles [source: Taubman]. The company also was allowed to fulfill the contract for one of the satellites that used advanced radar for imaging.

­The entire program was finally scrapped in September 2005, and the government may have spent up to $18 billion [source: Taubman]. In 2007, another classified U.S. spy satellite program was axed by then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell.