Last month, Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI, 8th District), chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, authored an opinion piece in Space News about procuring commercial satellite services. He argued for the urgent need to change this process to save money, but more importantly, to protect our armed forces. XTAR strongly supports the Congressman’s ideas and his leadership in championing this critical issue.
XTAR, along with several other commercial satellite operators, has worked for years to inform Congress of the inefficiency in DoD’s satellite communications acquisition practices. As Rep. Roger’s notes, the USAF has seen dramatic growth in COMSATCOM use since 9/11. Unfortunately, DoD pays top dollar for these vital services because they are contracted on a year-by-year basis. Currently, the DoD is not permitted to contract for COMSATCOM for any longer term than this. By comparison, other COMSATCOM users who acquire services under contracts ranging from 5-15 year terms generally benefit from more reasonable prices. The DoD’s imprudent COMSATCOM procurement practice ultimately hits the taxpayer’s wallet. By pursuing some of the Better Buying 2.0 [link] suggestions offered by trusted commercial satellite providers, these costs could be significantly mitigated – while ensuring our warfighters are fully equipped with the communications they require to do their mission.
Congress, and specifically Rep. Rogers, recognizes that this lack of a long-term procurement policy and a strategic plan to acquire COMSATCOM will also degrade U.S. national security. DoD and Congress must work together with industry to define and implement better COMSATCOM procurement and acquisition approaches to ensure our armed forces are prepared to conduct successful missions anywhere in the world. Cooperation with commercial satellite providers, who offer the latest technology at lower costs to DoD, is essential to instituting alternative and more efficient COMSATCOM acquisition policy. Decisions made in closed-door sessions without public comment from the commercial industry may fall short of real change.
The recent passage of the NDAA for FY2014 affirms that Congress views industry as its partner in this vital change process. The law includes specific language for buying long term, requiring the DoD to plan for the future and be more cost effective in its COMSATCOM acquisition practices. In Rep. Rogers’ words, “A smarter acquisition program for these services is not just good business sense, it’s a critical imperative that will allow us to stretch scarce defense resources at a time when space is more important and more threatened by America’s adversaries and competitors.” We could not agree more.