Recently Via Satellite ran an interesting interview with Colonel Michael Lakos, Chief of the Global Mission Support Division inside the U.S. Air Force. The interview suggests a fresh look at innovative approaches such as hosted payloads. You can read the full interview here.
Here are some snippets we found especially encouraging:
Lakos acknowledges that schedule delays often make the government a hard partner for private industry to serve:
“I know that commercial industry would be cautious with a relationship with the government and the military, as they have a pretty firm schedule and they answer to their shareholders. When they go down a path there is a schedule they want to stay in front of, so a delay in terms of a launch or declaring an operational capability usually costs money. Traditionally, it is the military that has a lot of these delays, particularly in terms of getting a payload ready to launch, so it could adversely affect a relationship with a commercial vendor.”
He cites the success of the ADF hosted payload on IS-22 and predicts expanded use by the U.S. military:
“I definitely think there has been a shift in thinking. One of things we are looking at is how the Australian Defense Force has partnered with Intelsat, having a payload on the IS-22 satellite.
“Hosted payloads is definitely an area that we are looking to expand into.”
Lakos acknowledged that deep budget cuts are forcing a rethinking to how best to meet SATCOM needs, and how the budget makes it hard to accommodate delays such as those associated with AEHF:
“The budgets are not getting any larger. They are not even staying stable. They are declining at a rate that I haven’t seen in my lifetime. We have to figure out how we sustain the current capabilities that we have in orbit, and somehow modestly increase the capabilities we deliver to the warfighter.”
“We have learned recently with the AEHF program that nothing ever goes to plan. You always have to adapt and move towards a schedule and if you miss a milestone, how do you recover from that? So, we have had to endure schedule slips with AEHF, and work out how that impacts our mission partner, because they are investing a large sum of their treasury into the program.”
Lakos refers to leased commercial SATCOM as expensive – as the following quote indicates. This is a perspective SATCOM Frontier has dealt with before. In fact, SES Government Solutions CEO Tip Osterthaler really takes the government to task for that belief in a recent editorial.
“One of the biggest questions we have been tackling is what is the best and most cost-effective mix of milsatcom and commercial satcom. That is a question our leadership frequently gets asked by our Congressional leaders. Traditionally, leasing capacity from commercial satellite providers has been quite expensive. As part of that Resilient Basis Study, we are trying to figure out what is the best mix.”
As that last quote shows, changing attitudes takes time. But this interview demonstrates an extremely encouraging trend towards a true partner developing between the commercial SATCOM industry and the government customer. In today’s budget climate, that is in everyone’s best interest.