Should commercial infrastructure be given a bigger role in opening up the networked capabilities of operating units?

October 1, 2007

The U.S. Defense Department is investing billions of dollars in new military satellite communications systems. Unfortunately, reliance on these expensive and delayed programs has hampered the networked capabilities of operating units. Not only does a projected bandwidth shortage threaten the connectivity of U.S. forces around the globe, but the existing bandwidth shortage also is having repercussions on the morale of troops in theater who want to communicate with home. Given the considerable cost of military satellite communications systems and the consistently delayed deployments, why isn’t the Defense Department taking advantage of an existing infrastructure to fill the gap today?

Share Your Thoughts:

Given that 80-90% of today's SATCOM supporting military operations is provided by commercial systems it seems the question may be misdirected. Given that we already heavily use commercial SATCOM the questions are how much is enough and what is the right balance between military and commercial systems. I would say that we are meeting critical mission requirements now and there is a mechanism for obtaining additional bandwidth when needed. However, until we can transition to bandwidth on demand capabilities we will not be maximizing the bandwidth we currently have available. My opinion is that we need more balance between military and civilian SATCOM Systems. The first WGS satellite launched last week will start bringing that balance back but it will take commitment over the next decade to achieve.
COL Tim Coffin CDR 1st Space Brigade

No. This increases reliance on the private sector and takes away the militaries control over vital command and control resources.

Providing bandwidth is only one small part of the equation. Demand for imagery and full motion video will consume any bandwidth made available. We just need to be smarter about utilizing what's available.

The bigger issue affecting networking is getting data owners to share what's being collected and to convince the accreditation mafia to find an immediate answer to enable capability. Security concerns impede great ideas for information sharing and every service and agency carries a different set of rules governing connectivity. Cost for bandwidth is trivial when you consider about $.17 of every programmed dollar is spent on security accreditation.

No, it's faulty practices not policy and the answer is not to force feed an insatiable glutton with cheap commercial satcom. Military communications demands will exceed capacity until the services take painful steps they have consciously avoided for decades: First, tailor battlefield requirements and doctrine to match extant IT system capabilities, not hyped expectations. Second, support funds for rugged government IT rather than expensive platforms that are marginal or useless without assured connectivity. Third, develop and rigorously exercise tactics that will work in battlespace when the telephone doesn't.

We need complete control of satellites,before the war,without complete control we will have grey areas,and we dont want media or government controlling what the military can or cannot do!

Intuition tells us that satellite based communications are vulnerable. Keep the HF -VHF-UHF sets dry.