SATELLITE 2013 is fast receding in the rear view mirror, but there were a few things about this year’s show that stayed with me and my XTAR colleagues who attended the three day annual conference and exhibit.
Not surprisingly, the most talked-about issue was sequestration and the impact it will (not “might”) have on the U.S. government and military. Virtually everyone we spoke with felt that the fiscal year will be weakened by the inability of government agencies to fund projects they might otherwise have approved by now. That said, on the final day of SATELLITE, Congress finally passed a form of continuing resolution which finally brought some clarity to the funding picture. I am hopeful this resolution will eliminate at least some of the acquisition log jam which comes from complete uncertainty. On the other hand, because it essentially maintained the sequestration cuts, the break-up of the log jam will also result in widespread elimination of current programs and the delay or cancellation of others scheduled to start this year.
The absence of military uniforms in attendance at SATELLITE was also testament to the impact of sequestration; we heard that service members had been told they would have to take a personal day to attend – and that’s if they were local. The DoD and most agencies have banned virtually all travel for industry conferences and consortia. If measured by the attendance by military personnel at SATELLITE 2013, one would have to conclude the Canadian and Australian militaries plan to spend more money on COMSATCOM services than the U.S. Department of Defense.
High throughput satellite (HTS), especially targeting support of 3G/4G networks, were a major topic of discussion, both on the exhibit floor and in many panels we attended.
We noted quite a bit of discussion about how to add on capability to terminals rather than selling brand new ones. Users want to know how much a frequency upgrade package would cost as opposed to having to buy a new terminal with all the new capabilities. It’s hard to argue with a buyer considering all their options in a fiscally constrained environment.
Hands down, the best news from SATELLITE 2013 was Mr. Frank Kendall’s (USD AT&L) announcement at the SIA Leadership Dinner that his office, in cooperation with the DoD CIO, will initiate an effort to change policy in order to establish a “smarter way to buy commercial satellite communications.” Naturally, XTAR welcomes this announcement and looks forward to contributing to Mr. Kendall’s objectives. Maybe in a few years we’ll look back on SATELLITE 2013 as the moment when DoD and the commercial satellite industry really began to capitalize on the outstanding opportunity to fully support the warfighter and achieve the best value for the dollar on behalf of the taxpayer. We certainly hope that to be the case.
All eyes are now fixed on the National Space Symposium (NSS) in Colorado next week. Given the DoD’s travel ban it’s inevitable that the show will be impacted, much as SATELLITE 2013 was. We will watch that “space” with keen interest.