The Department of Defense (DoD) is at an integral and exciting crossroads when it comes to the military’s SATCOM network and infrastructure. The DoD’s existing, purpose-built MILSATCOM capabilities are rapidly reaching their anticipated end of service dates. However, the military still relies heavily on SATCOM to deliver mission critical communications in theater, and connect decision makers to warfighters at the tip of the spear.
As we’ve heard echoed at every industry event and conference, the military knows that the old way of doing business simply won’t cut it any more when it comes to the nation’s SATCOM requirements. Space is simply too contested of an environment. The cost to build and launch purpose-built satellites is too high. The time needed to build, test and launch satellites into orbit makes it extremely difficult for the DoD to keep up with the pace of innovation within the industry – robbing our military of the ability to utilize the latest technologies in a timely and efficient manner.
Military leaders understand that COMSATCOM needs to play a larger role in the nation’s satellite infrastructure moving forward – for resiliency, mission assurance, cost reduction and innovation. The DoD is working on launching a Wideband Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to identify the best path forward for building the military’s SATCOM infrastructure of the future.
The SATCOM Industry Group (SIG) – a coalition of the leading satellite providers, of which I and SES GS are members – has had the opportunity to dialogue with key military decision makers to ensure that the DoD meets its SATCOM capability needs in this changing environment. The SIG has been engaged with the DoD – including the Principal DoD Space Advisor (PDSA) staff – and contributing to the DoD’s efforts to initiate the Wideband AoA.
As part of the AoA process, military decision makers will need to carefully consider which mission support roles can be appropriately fulfilled by emerging commercial SATCOM capabilities. By utilizing an appropriate mix of commercial and government SATCOM capability, the military can afford the warfighter an array of advanced capabilities in and across the land, air, sea, and space domains.
As the DoD continues to work towards the Wideband AoA, the SIG will continue to support the following six considerations and steps that the group feels will best fulfil the military’s SATCOM needs today and into the future:
- Consideration of the full range of commercial SATCOM capabilities for the wideband SATCOM AoA.
- Developing an integrated DoD SATCOM communications architecture that leverages commercial and government infrastructure.
- Affording DoD adequate time to conduct the Wideband AoA with robust industry participation.
- DoD conduct of the Wideband AoA in a manner designed to ensure that requirements, guidance, assumptions, full lifecycle costs, and tradeoffs are shared and commonly understood by all government and industry stakeholders, including Congress.
- Full funding and Congressional support for two distinct, complementary activities: the COMSATCOM Pilot Program and the COMSATCOM Pathfinder Initiatives.
- Congressional actions that afford the Government flexibility in future program planning budgeting, and acquisition to develop and deploy an integrated, resilient SATCOM architecture that includes commercial SATCOM capabilities as an enduring, baseline component.
The six considerations and actions above are essential for providing the military with the information, funding and freedom necessary to build out a SATCOM network that can support the DoD’s mission in the future. The SIG looks forward to continuing to work these issues with all stakeholders in a collaborative, pro-competitive, manner to ensure that the military’s satellite needs are met in the most effective and efficient manner possible.