Birth of Air Force Satellite Reconnaissance, Facts, Recollections and Reflections

by Peter A. Swan

This history of SAFSP is dedicated to all those men and women who fought the Cold War, in silence – from above. No organization is better at gathering overhead intelligence than the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Today’s NRO grew out of 3 organizations: AF, CIA, and Navy. The AF office for satellite reconnaissance was called the Secretary of Air Force’s Office of Special Projects [SAFSP]. This monograph describes the birth of Air Force satellite reconnaissance. When SAFSP was created in response to Presidential recognition of a national imperative, 4 tenets captured the sense of urgency: direct access to national leadership, covert management/operations, highest national priority, and rapid procurement. In addition, 3 management principles led to SAFSP’s success over 30+ years of providing reconnaissance intelligence: strong dedication to mission, empowerment at all levels, and reporting by exception.