Recently SatCom Frontier sat down with Peg Grayson, president of MTN Government. We discussed a number of issues affecting the government satellite market, such as bandwidth procurement, hosted payloads and cybersecurity. The interview appears below.
Thanks so much for joining us today. Please give SatCom Frontier readers an idea of your background and experience.
Prior to my current role as the president of MTN Government (MTNGOV), I was in leadership roles at technology companies, focusing on finance, policy, regulatory compliance and risk management. I became very interested in satellite communications as president and CEO of V-ONE. I worked closely with federal, state and local government agencies on the requirements and design of security products, developing deep expertise in cyber security, data integrity and information sharing in wired, wireless and satellite networks where latency issues across satellite links for encrypted data has to be solved.
In 2002, I was appointed to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) by President Bush, and am currently serving at the request of President Obama. My expertise is in cyber security and information sharing, and I have participated in several comprehensive studies, through the Department of Homeland Security, advising the president on the security of the nation’s critical infrastructures and information systems.
In your view what are the biggest issues facing commercial satellite providers in servicing government clients?
One of the biggest challenges the satellite industry faces is that contract vehicles like CS2 do not allow multi-year bandwidth acquisition. This prevents the government from benefitting from the competitive pricing of longer-term service commitments in filling its commercial bandwidth requirements.
At the same time, companies need to be agile and innovative in the format they offer services to the government. But to do this, the government needs to include the commercial providers more in the long-term planning process. The government can help commercial industry do this effectively by broadening the contracting structure to enable multi-year commitments.
Do you see hosted payloads as playing an even greater role for MILSATCOM over the next year or so?
The U.S. Air Force Space Command issued a call last year for proposals on how commercial satellites could host military payloads. The budget bill approved by Congress last month directs the Department of Defense to look at both longer commercial satellite leases and hosted payloads as a means of filling military requirements. Both of these are very big steps forward. The economic advantages to the government of using commercially hosted payloads are significant and I think they will play an increasing role in meeting the military’s requirements for satellite capacity.
NIST recently came out with a recommended framework for cybersecurity. What do you see in the future for satellite and cybersecurity endeavors?
While IT and other areas are seeing declining or flat-lined budgets, the U.S. government is committing more budget dollars to cybersecurity than ever before. Congress wants to more than double the funding of the U.S. Cyber Command, the White House has issued directives to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, and more than one top official has predicted recently that “the next war will be fought in cyberspace.”
Therefore, my hope for the next few years is that the federal government continues to expand the development of working partnerships between agencies, local governments and industry to achieve national resiliency because of the complexity and interdependencies of our critical infrastructure.
What changes in the government satellite market do you see occurring in the next 12-18 months?
I think we are going to see a greater convergence of satellite communications and cyber security geared toward protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure. The Department of Homeland Security will become equally as important as the DoD in this effort because the future of our nation’s resiliency will, in part, be dependent on access to and effective use of emergency communications – and satellites are a key if not THE key communications asset in this area.
Any efforts to improve emergency communications capability will have to involve state and local governments as key stakeholders. The satellite industry needs to engage now to strategize on how best to anticipate in-country events, coordinate with all of the stakeholders and efficiently make communications a tool for resiliency. We are going to see commercial satellites evolve from communications devices to vital weapons in protecting our nation’s resiliency.