With the Air Force slated to wrap up a long term study on its way forward for wideband satellite communications, industry is keeping a watchful eye on the outcome.
While commercial leaders have only had peeks inside the ongoing effort through a commercial cell and engagements, one executive hopes industry will be incorporated to the long term.
“Our objective really is to be designed into the long term architecture,” Skot Butler, president of Intelsat General Corporation, told C4ISRNET in an interview at the annual Satellite 2018 conference.
“There’s numerous things that we as a company and as an industry we’ve said we want from the DoD over five years or more, he said. “All of those elements to me ultimately feed up to one thing, which is, as an industry we want to know what our place is. We want to know we have a place in the architecture in the long term and we are not an afterthought and are not only there for surge. We’re not a last resort or anything like that.”
The new spending plan congressional leaders unveiled March 21 unexpectedly includes $600 million for the Air Force to extend its wideband satellite communications program by two satellites.
The Air Force’s Wideband Global Satcom program currently consists of 10 satellites, the first of which launched in 2007, and has a total price tag of $4.3 billion. Boeing is the program’s prime contractor and the last satellite in the program had been expected to launch in fiscal 2018.
But budget documents from the House accompanying the bill call for an additional $600 million for what’s described as “full funding for WGS 11 and 12.”
For years, industry leaders have said they want certainty from their DoD customer in large part so they can plan future investments,
“We’ve made the case for longer term contracting for some time, not spot market, one year, [overseas contingency operations] funded,” Butler said.
Butler added, that as industry, it would be great for the government to come out and articulate where commercial fits into its new architecture, that it’s an enduring requirement for them as well as the kinds of things that DoD would like industry to do that’s it’s not doing currently.
This greater certainty, and earlier incorporation into the architecture, would give publicly traded companies the opportunity to outline possible features that are specific to government customers and justify these unique investments, Butler said.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.