U.S. to Consolidate, Modify Bandwidth Purchasing Programs

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government will consolidate several contracts for commercial satellite communications capacity into one new purchasing vehicle that will enable agencies to buy bandwidth directly from satellite operators starting in 2011, government officials said Aug. 6.

The new contract vehicle, called the Future Comsatcom Services Acquisition (FCSA), will provide for both military and civil government needs and could be worth as much as $5 billion over 10 years, Karl Krumbholz, director of network services at the General Services Administration, said during a media conference call. The FCSA contract will enable agencies to purchase a wider variety of communications services and save money by eliminating duplicative contract management structures, Krumbholz said.

Currently the General Services Administration buys capacity for civil government agencies through the Satcom 2 contract, while the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) buys capacity for Defense Department users via the Defense Satellite Transmission Services-Global contract.

Both so-called indefinite-quantity, indefinite-delivery contracts use companies known as integrators that purchase satellite capacity and sometimes create and manage entire networks on behalf of the government. The FCSA contract will not eliminate these types of managed services, Bruce Bennett, DISA’s director of satcom and teleport services, said during the call. But the government will also be able to purchase bandwidth directly from commercial satellite operators, which it cannot do under current contracts, he said.

For such bandwidth-only purchases, the government will issue draft requests for proposals starting late this year, and contracts are expected to be issued starting in early 2011. Draft solicitations for the managed services contracts will be issued in early 2010, with contracts expected to be awarded in mid-2011, Krumbholz said.

In 2008, the government spent $350 million through the Defense Satellite Transmission Services-Global contract, and $47 million through the Satcom 2 contract, Bennett said. The military’s demand for commercial bandwidth has increased sharply since 2000, mostly to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. The launch of new military communications satellites covering the region is expected to limit that growth over the next few years but not reverse it, he said.