WASHINGTON — The Air Force Space Command announced on Wednesday that it has officially assumed responsibility for the procurement of commercial satellite communications services for the Department of Defense. The job previously belonged to the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The shift was mandated by Congress in Section 1601(a) of the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill said the transition had to be completed no later than one year from the day the NDAA was signed Dec. 12, 2017.

Air Force Space Command, based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., will oversee procurement of nearly all military and commercial satcom for DoD. The 36 civilian and military members and 70 support contractors who have been doing the satcom procurement job for DISA will remain in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Air Force Space Command decided to not relocate the office to Peterson to avert the departure of key staff. DISA, based at Fort Meade, Md., retains administrative control of those personnel until the formal transfer to Air Force Space Command in October 2019. The satcom procurement office is scheduled to be fully operational by October 2020.

“The new acquisition authority better integrates our military and private satcom sectors, ensuring our warfighters have the communications capabilities they need to fight and win,” Gen. Jay Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command, said in a statement. “Our vision is for users to be able to connect quickly among different satellite constellations or service providers.”

Satcom industry executives advocated for the transfer of responsibilities to Air Force Space Command. They were not happy with DISA’s business model of leasing bandwidth from commercial satellite operators, and expect Air Force Space Command will support other methods of acquiring communications for the U.S. military. They would like to see DoD buy commercial broadband services and integrate them with military satcom networks into a hybrid system.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...