Transforming Satellite Communications in an Era of Austerity

The United States should adapt its military satellite communications architecture to the new strategic environment where US dominance of space is far from assured, said Todd Harrison, senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. In a forthcoming study, Harrison argues that the United States should transition from a “two tier” MILSATCOM approach that focuses on protected and unprotected assets to a three-tier setup that includes a middle level that provides a lower level of protection for more tactical users. This could include using hosted protected payloads to expand capacity at a low cost, he told reporters during a briefing in Washington, D.C., on July 23. The lowest tier in this arrangement would encompass non-essential communications that the Pentagon could purchase via service agreements rather than maintaining as an organic capability, he said. The Defense Department should also consolidate the management of its MILSATCOM programs to cut back on costs and avoid requirements creep, said Harrison.