WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s tactical network modernization office released a request for information Wednesday for commercial satellite communications as a service.

The RFI, released by Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, will give the Army tactical network team an improved understanding of existing industry best practices, technological advancements and innovative business models for commercially managed satellites that could replace the operating design of its logistics network, known as the sustainment tactical network.

“We are looking to our industry partners to provide us with inventive approaches to meet our logistics transport capabilities needs,” said Col. Shane Taylor, the Army’s project manager for Tactical Network (PM TN), in a press release. “This includes both end item material solutions, as well as what corresponding leasing cost models could look like to enable the Army to maximize capabilities while balancing long-term affordability.”

Commercially managed SATCOM would be an improvement over the standard SATCOM capabilities because currently the Army must purchase all the hardware, software, maintenance and sustainment needs, along with other related capabilities, on independent, standalone contracts, the press release said. With SATCOM as a service, the PEO C3T will procure all the capabilities under a single contract, paying for each leased Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) ground satellite terminal.

"We want to deliver the right STN SATCOM capability at the right price, while keeping current with technology and ahead of obsolescence,” said Lt. Col. Natashia Coleman, product lead for Unified Network Capabilities and Integration. “To do that we need to better understand how and what industry can provide, what their different managed services models would look like, how they could each best support our hardware and support services requirements, and then compare that to the more traditional way we are providing the capability now and determine which would work best.

“Whatever the outcome, taking the time upfront to review all of the options will enable us to deliver the best solution for the Army,” she sadded.

According to Paul Mehney, communications director for PEO C3T, the program office expects industry to demonstrate their SATCOM as a service capabilities for engineer and operational assessment. Mehney said that the office will consider the companies' ability to provide and maintain terminals, obtain host nation agreements for use of bandwidth, provide a help desk to address network access issues, and technical support to users and VSAT systems.

Mehney also said that the logistics network modernization efforts aligns with increased capacity, resiliency and convergence goals of Capability Set ’23, the next iteration of new network tools set to be delivered in fiscal 2023.

“We are looking to incorporate STN design goals as part of CS23 and beyond; providing initial STN elements for CS23 (such as modernized VSAT and Local Transport capabilities) to support CS priorities over time,” Mehney said.

Responses are due Nov. 6.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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