Military, Commercial Communications Officials Seek Common Ground

By | September 27, 2000 | Feature

Even though commercial satellite communications systems are projected to handle an increasing amount of the U.S. military bandwidth requirements in the coming decade, success for these systems will lie in finding the right balance between military objectives and commercial profit margins.

“There will always be a need for commercial applications within DoD systems, but how much can be commercially addressed will depend on funding and know-how,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Mike Herbert, Deputy Director of the Milsatcom Joint Program Office. “Both sides have to work more closely together were the specified DoD requirements can be met by the commercial sector while the government learns how to move at the same pace that the industry moves to successfully complete a contract.”

Herbert made his remarks Sept. 14 on Capitol Hill at the Space At The Crossroads – Military Use of Commercial Space Systems conference. The Satellite Industry Association (SIA) and the Space Transportation Association (STA) presented the one-day forum, which brought together more than 200 attendees.

Even though both military and commercial leaders agree that a strong partnership can be formed, some questioned what role the commercial sector can actually play.

“Most commercial systems prove less capable of delivering what the military needs,” said Dave Thompson, president of Spectrum Astro Corp. “I believe that commercial communications systems are great for ordering toilet paper, but [they] lack strength for military warfare.”

Thompson’s main opposition to commercial communications systems for the military is based on the lack of funding behind such systems. “We need to properly fund military communications systems now during peace time and not later in times of conflict,” he said.

Some industry leaders agree fulfilling contracts in stages may prove beneficial for all involved. “Considering emerging commercial systems are promising, I recommend that contracts are approached in stages and as the market matures so does the long-term commitment with the military,” said Michael Gianelli, vice president and general manager, DoD-Civil Systems, Hughes Space and Communications Co. [GMH].

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