DoD’s Pivot to Commercial Satcom: Reality or Wishful Thinking?

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Rising bandwidth demand, emerging threats, and tight budgets are driving the Pentagon to leverage commercial satellites to deliver secure communications.


Intelsat General Corp. and SpaceNews sponsored a Washington Space Business Roundtable panel discussion Dec. 15 examining U.S. Defense Department efforts to make greater user of commercial satellite communications to better meet its mission requirements and save money.

SpaceNews Executive Editor Warren Ferster said his aim as moderator was to give people a better sense of whether the event’s title — DoD’s Pivot to Commercial Satcom — “represents reality or more wishful thinking.”

“I’ve been covering this issue for more than a decade and I am still hearing a lot of the same complaints from industry,” Ferster said. “[T]here have been numerous studies and reform initiatives … but I think it’s fair to say the process has moved a bit more slowly than the commercial operators would like.”

Intelsat General President Kay Sears said she was encouraged that this year’s WSBR panel discussion included representatives from DoD and Congress (last year’s was all industry representatives) and that “all three legs of the stool” want to see a bigger DoD role for commercial satcom.

“All three legs of the stool are aligned. I am very encouraged for 2016. I think we have done an awesome job talking to each other this year and we really want to move out in 2016 and make change,” Sears said

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The highlight videos presented here were produced by SpaceNews with support from Intelsat General Corp.


Sense of Urgency

SES Government Solutions CEO Peter Hoene and Intelsat General President Kay Sears make the case that the “stars are in alignment” for improving the way the U.S. government meets its satellite communications needs.


Resiliency Capacity replacing Functional Availability

Winston Beauchamp, the U.S. Air Force deputy undersecretary for space, says “resiliency capacity” is replacing “functional availability” as a key driver behind DoD’s satcom decisions. That’s good news for commercial operators pushing new technology insertion and redundancy as a selling point of commercial satellite fleet replenishment.


Making Commercial Comms Protected Comms

Intelsat General President Kay Sears and SES Government Solutions CEO Peter Hoene talk about what commercial satellite operators are already doing to “move up the protection continuum” and where government investment could lend a hand.


Commercial Vs. Government Bandwidth Costs

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Joe Vanderpoorten said when it comes to comparing government vs. commercial bandwidth costs, a lot depends on usage models and whether you are talking cost-per-megahertz or cost-per-megabit. “We’ve got some fussy customers. They want to have their demand whether they are using it or not.”


Has DoD Ordered its Last WGS Satellite?

SpaceNews Executive Editor Warren Ferster polled the panel on whether the U.S. Defense Department will replace the current generation of Wideband Global Satcom satellites with commercial capacity.