WASHINGTON — The U.S. government kicked off a $3.5 billion effort July 6 to select companies to provide custom commercial satellite communications networks to the military and civil government agencies.

As a part of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Future Comsatcom Services Acquisition (FCSA) program, multiple companies will be awarded contracts to provide end-to-end managed communications networks. The task-order style Custom Satcom Solutions contracts will be worth a total of $2.6 billion over five years, according to a posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website. There will be another $900 million set aside for small businesses under the program. Bids are due Aug. 12.

The FCSA contracting vehicle will consolidate a number of existing military and civil government contracts managed by several government agencies. The largest existing contract is the $400 million-a-year Defense Satellite Transmission Services-Global, or DSTS-G, contract that is used to procure both commercial satellite bandwidth and end-to-end communications networks for the Pentagon. The Custom Satcom Solutions contracts will enable the government to procure end-to-end network services, while it will be able to buy bandwidth directly from satellite operators through another part of FCSA.

The DSTS-G contract was created as a small-business set-aside, but all three of the original DSTS-G providers, known as integrators because they do not own satellites, have grown beyond the limits for small businesses or have been acquired by larger companies.

One original integrator, Arrowhead Global Solutions of Fairfax, Va., was acquired by CapRock Communications of Houston, which subsequently was bought by Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla. The company will compete as a prime contractor in the open competition, but will not reveal any teaming arrangements at this time, CapRock spokeswoman Alix Hornig said July 7.

Artel Inc. of Reston, Va., another DSTS-G integrator, will also compete in the open competition but will not reveal teaming arrangements, spokesman Ron Seward said July 8. Brian Gallagher, a spokesman for the third firm, DRS Technologies , would not say whether the Parsippany, N.J.-based company plans to compete for an FCSA contract.

The world’s two largest satellite operators are expected to take different approaches to FCSA. Intelsat of Washington and Luxembourg, and SES of Luxembourg both will presumably sell bandwidth directly to the government under the program. Intelsat’s U.S. subsidiary, Intelsat General of Bethesda, Md., also will compete for a Custom Satcom Solutions contract, spokeswoman Lisa Koppel said July 8.

Nicole Robinson, a spokeswoman for SES U.S. Government Solutions, would not say whether the company plans to pursue a Custom Satcom Solutions contract. The company has previously said it has shifted focus away from end-to-end network management toward pure bandwidth sales.

Intelsat in recent months has drawn the ire of some of its customers for alleged anti-competitive behavior. Artel, CapRock and Segovia Inc. of Herndon, Va., protested the January award of a large U.S. Navy satellite communications contract to Intelsat General, citing price manipulation. In this case, Intelsat General was competing to be the prime integrator as well as a bandwidth provider for competing bidders. The U.S. Government Accountability Office denied the protest.

Artel and CapRock, along with two other companies, in April filed separate, similar protests against Intelsat with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, whose review is ongoing.