An interesting story was published by SpaceRef last week, coming out of the National Space Symposium held in Colorado Springs, CO. It reported that the largest providers of commercial SATCOM are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of clarity being given by the government regarding their future SATCOM needs.
The article suggests this is due to budget cuts, but what it really is about is uncertainty. This is a theme that Kay Sears, President of Intelsat General, has discussed often on this site. Now others are joining in. From the SpaceRef story:
"In the budget bind we are entering, we're going to have to do a better job of creating real partnerships where government can deal with industry in such a way that industry can be secure in investments," said Robert (Tip) Osterthaler, calling it a "serious problem." (Osterthaler is President and CEO of SES Government Solutions).
"It could have big ramifications for us if we make the wrong decision," said Matthew Desch, the CEO of Iridium Communications Inc.
“All of us in the government space market are in the vanguard of a challenging new era. Very difficult questions that haven’t been relevant for over a decade will now need answers. What programs do we keep? Which do we cut? Are there better, more efficient ways to accomplish a particular mission? Answering these questions represents a true culture change for many of our customers.”
It’s very encouraging to see others in the industry begin to discuss this issue frankly. Yes, budget cuts force tough decisions. Tough decisions require leaders to demonstrate leadership, and have a broader view than simply protecting their proprietary programs.
The commercial SATCOM industry has always been there for the government customer. In these tough times, closer collaboration and flexibility on both sides will be critical to maintaining our country’s supremacy in space.