XTAR – and the satellite industry in general – are encouraged to see the DoD taking steps to formalize the role that satellite operators play in the military space architecture. In January, the Defense Business Board (DBB), an independent group authorized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, produced a report containing recommendations for how the Defense Department can more efficiently and cost effectively provision for its satcom needs into the future. The DBB recommendations closely mirror those the major commercial satellite operators have been urging the DoD to consider for the past five or more years. The DBB recommendations include: 1) establishing a baseline of COMSATCOM bandwidth; 2) appointing a single authority for space architecture within DoD; and 3) authorizing longer term contracting, a provision it estimated would save taxpayers $100M annually. XTAR and the other commercial operators applaud the DBB for focusing on these valuable and necessary actions.
Subsequent to the report, Under Secretary of Defense (AT&L) Frank Kendall, at the March 18 SIA Leadership Dinner before SATELLITE 2013, announced he is working with the DoD CIO’s office over the next 90 days to develop “specific proposals for the DoD to acquire commercial satellite capacity more economically.” Earlier in March, during testimony before a Congressional House Armed Services Committee, Ms. Teri Takai (DoD CIO), confirmed that the DoD is going to “look at what’s the best approach,” and that implementation of “a converged satcom gateway architecture” is already under way. Air Force General William Shelton, in remarks at the National Space Symposium last week, said we must find the “sweet spot” between affordability, resiliency and capability when it comes to acquiring comsatcoms for military requirements.
Viewed collectively, these are all encouraging signs that DoD leaders are beginning to validate positions industry has advocated for some time. [Click here to read an industry group memo to the DoD.] It appears that there is genuine forward progress in evaluating the recommendations from the DBB. However, we in industry do not yet see a move to actionable policy – a process with which we would most certainly hope to have input.
As we await further communication from the Pentagon, there is a fair bit of nail biting. What would be disastrous, and possibly further disenfranchise commercial satellite operators, would be that poor policy, by which I mean policy that would place more obstructions on the road to better buying, would suddenly emerge from the Pentagon as a done deal without further discussions or input from industry. In our view, it is essential that commercial operators play a central role in the development of any such policy.
The DoD’s recent track record on collaboration with industry has been mixed and provides little insight into how this policy may evolve. One example is FCSA, a definite improvement in contract policy from its predecessor DSTS-G, which makes it easier and more affordable for federal agencies to get secure satellite services on an as-needed basis. FCSA was created constructively through open and transparent dialogue by the DoD with operators, integrators and users fostering competition and cost savings that benefit the military user with real cost savings. In woeful contrast, the DoD’s recent Guidance on Hosted Payloads from the CIO’s office appears to be in conflict with the DoD’s own posted information on the HoPS IDIQ Contract and will hopefully soon be rescinded.
The satellite operator community has long sought the opportunity to participate in and be a part of DoD’s bandwidth solution. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get down to helping formulate a policy that will facilitate the implementation of the various recommendations from the DBB report. This will save precious taxpayer dollars during a time of severe fiscal austerity. More importantly, such a collaborative DoD/industry policy would support the warfighter in protecting national security.