Today, there exist numerous satellite operators which have spent millions of dollars meeting or exceeding U.S. Government requirements for information assurance and operational compatibility. Of course, XTAR is one of them. With this in mind, I noted with great interest recent criticism of DoD’s decision to buy from a DISA-approved integrator commercial space segment capacity on a Chinese-owned APSTAR satellite in order to address AFRICOM requirements. Critics hyped that decision as an example of the inevitable outcome of DoD’s excessive reliance on the commercial satellite industry. One such critic representing the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group which lobbies for the defense industry, said the lease “underscores the limitations” of not investing enough U.S. money in non-classified military satellite programs and “depending only on the commercial market for national security telecom requirements”. These critics claim that this event is proof of the need to expand MILSATCOM resources like WGS.
This is entirely the wrong conclusion to draw!
Under DISA’s standard guidelines, the APSTAR capacity either met or exceeded the minimum mission assurance standards necessary to fulfill AFRICOM’s needs, or military personnel waived that requirement and accepted any risk to the AFRICOM mission.
Concerned lawmakers and others would do right to focus on the real deficiencies underscored in this example. Namely, the APSTAR case highlights the limitations of MILSATCOM combined with a COMSATCOM acquisition policy which fails to capitalize on all the potential benefits available from trusted commercial operators. In an era when the gap between demand for space-based national security capabilities and the Government’s financial resources is expanding, DoD should be focused on encouraging trusted commercial satellite operators, like XTAR, to make investments which will ensure warfighter requirements are met with reliable and affordable solutions whenever and wherever needed.
XTAR and other trusted operators who have voluntarily invested millions of dollars in meeting and exceeding DoD mission assurance standards, are prepared to go further in volume, reach, and capability to support growing government requirements for capability and security. To trigger further investment on the part of these trusted operators, the Government should indicate its willingness to work via long-term commitments and other needed acquisition reform.