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Managing operations at Pine Gap

By Desmond Ball, Bill Robinson and Richard Tanter


The management of operations at the Pine Gap facility has become increasingly complex as the functions of the station have expanded, the number of agencies involved has grown, and the demands of a wider range of ‘users’ or ‘customers’ for the provision of ‘actionable intelligence’ in near real-time have increased markedly. Operations at Pine Gap are now completely integrated, in terms of American and Australian, civilian and military, and contractor personnel working together in the Operations Room; the organisational structure for managing operations, which embodies concerted collaboration of multiple US agencies, including the National Reconnaissance Office, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Service Cryptologic Agencies and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA); and functionally with respect to signals intelligence (SIGINT) collected by the geosynchronous SIGINT satellites controlled by Pine Gap, communications intelligence collected by foreign satellite/communications satellite (FORNSAT/COMSAT) interception systems at Pine Gap, and imagery and geospatial intelligence produced by the NGA, as well as missile launch detection and tracking data. Conceptualising the extraordinary growth and expansion of operations at Pine Gap is not easy – by the nature of the facility. Externally, it is evident in the increase in size of the two main operations buildings within the high security compound – areas quite distinct from the separate part of the facility that deals with administration matters. The total area of floor space in the Operations Buildings has increased five-fold since 1970 to more than 20,000 m2. If the floor area of the two operations buildings were laid out and joined together, it would cover more than three and a half American football fields. More parochially, though for Australians more meaningfully, the floor area of Pine Gap’s operations complex would more than cover the entire playing field of the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Topics: Defence, Intelligence service
Publisher: Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability
Year: 2015
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