A Look at “S4” of Federal Q1 &Q2 of FY 2014

By Guest Blogger Lt. General William Donahue, USAF (Ret.) – The consequences of “S4” (sequestration, shutdown, Snowden, and snow) were real and material during the first half of FY 2014.  In spite of all the “S” that hit the fan, I applaud the successful budget deal that guided our leaders back toward their real job: funding the DoD to support national interests and our warfighters.  We must now place our energy and unrelenting focus on issues that will deliver national security within that budget we have.

Everyone in government must find efficient ways to buy, field and sustain capabilities that support of our national security. The satellite industry is at the ready—we can, we will, and we must work with government to continue to expand relationships that produce efficiency and deliver national security. DoD can no longer afford to spend endless hours defining requirements down to the “rivet” level, or adhere to an acquisition process that stifles innovation and rewards process adherence over results. DoD need not and should not build their own satellite communications systems that commercial industry has proven it can deliver in less time at lower costs.

Folks in and out of the DoD will challenge the above assertions. I urge them to consider the following analogy. Let’s say a government official needs to get to the airport.  Does she or he take an up-armored Humvee, pre-paid by DoD, or simply hail a taxi? With very few exceptions, a taxi is an excellent choice. The taxi meets the requirements without unnecessary functionality and exorbitant cost.

Now, more than ever, we need concrete action from Congress and the USAF to reduce costs while actively supporting national security—goals delineated by our U.S. national space policy. Government must correctly choose the right “make vs buy” strategy when acquiring satellite communications capabilities for the long term. I am encouraged; because it appears we are finally moving in that direction. The light at the end of the tunnel is not a freight train that will run over us but a pathfinder for new ideas and new strategies that make the best possible use of the scarce tax payer dollars.