The higher management of Pine Gap is and has always been an entirely American affair. To understand Pine Gap today, it is necessary to understand the organisations of the US intelligence community and military concerned with the acquisition of technical intelligence, and their politics over the past five decades. For the first two decades, responsibility for operation of the ground control station at Pine Gap resided with the Ground Systems Division of the Office of ELINT within the CIA’s Directorate for Science and Technology. However, by the early 1990s control passed to the Systems Acquisition and Operations Directorate of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). In the mid-2000s the NRO itself underwent a profound change towards new organisational structures for integrating the imagery and SIGINT operations and making the whole system more responsive to users. The latest phase of these changes in the NRO stresses the role of ground systems, including Pine Gap, in creating ‘a single networked information collection and distribution system’ worldwide. The fundamental transformation of the higher management structure is more than an organisational matter. Along with the militarisation of the facility, it has important implications for Australia's involvement in the project. It warrants serious public discussion, which requires, in turn, greater transparency by the Australian authorities. As a 'joint' facility, its management structures are just as much of interest to Australians as to the US contractors to whom the NRO largely speaks.
Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and Richard Tanter 2016