Press Release

Congressman Mike D. Rogers (R-AL) recently published an article entitled, “Changing the Military’s Approach to Commercial Satellite Communications,” and it was refreshing to see a leading member of the House Armed Services Committee seriously addressing an important if somewhat obscure issue.

Photo of Tip Osterthaler at the Capital in Washington D.C. courtesy of  Jason Dixson.

I suspect there haven’t been many votes either won or lost over the question of whether (or how) the Department of Defense reforms the way it buys commercial satellite capacity, but the stakes are surprisingly high and the Congressman and his staff deserve a lot of credit for taking the lead in a discussion that has been ongoing (but, unfortunately, going nowhere) for years.

In his article, Congressman Rogers points out that current DoD SATCOM procurement practices are both costly and risky, facts which no one in the industry would dispute. While I doubt it is their official acquisition strategy, today’s reality is that the government buys commercial capacity when and where it needs it, accepting whatever performance it provides, paying whatever it costs, and accepting the risk of non-availability. To be fair, other than being much more expensive than it needs to be, this approach has worked satisfactorily during our decade of heavy engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately though, that’s not likely to be the case in the future.

Regarding cost, reform efforts to date have focused primarily on changing the way DoD leases satellite capacity. In the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress calls on the Pentagon to prepare a strategy for the expansion of satellite acquisition authorities that would effectively help to reduce risk and cost to the Department. Specifically, DoD is asked to examine the use of longer and larger quantity leases, and those changes will help bring lease costs into line with what large commercial customers pay.

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Source: MilSatMagazine

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