NDAA Language Promising for Space Acquisition Reform

The text of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) bill was released last week. The language of the bill pertaining to satellite acquisition promises to have a dramatic effect on how the DoD interacts with satellite operators to use commercial capacity and services.

The language is contained in Section 913 of the bill, “Space Acquisition Strategy.” The section looks specifically at multi-year procurement of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM), which is far more efficient and economical than the current spot market purchases.

Key points of the proposed legislation:

  • Commercial SATCOM is required to meet DoD’s mission. Single year leases are the most expensive and least strategic method to acquire satellite services.
  • Congress encourages DoD to pursue a variety of methods to reduce costs, including multiyear leases and procurement of government owned payloads on commercial satellites.
  • Requires DoD to produce a strategy to incorporate these and other changes into current acquisition policy.

We commend Congress for recognizing the vital role played by commercial satellite operators in our nation’s space architecture. Given the necessary legislative support, DoD is now free to be more innovative and nimble in acquiring commercial SATCOM.

This language is an exciting confirmation that while the current budget environment presents challenges, it also presents opportunities to re-evaluate current processes for improvements. Thinking differently about space can result in superior capabilities and cost savings.

Many of these recommendations have been discussed for quite some time. Earlier this year, executives from the major commercial satellite firms came together to offer practical steps that would allow the DoD to save hundreds of millions of dollars  while ensuring reliable access to commercial SATCOM services.  These steps were originally in response to the Department of Defense’s Better Buying Power 2.0 (BBP2.0) initiative.  BBP2.0 was implemented to develop “fundamental acquisition principles to achieve greater efficiencies through affordability, cost control, elimination of unproductive processes and bureaucracy, and promotion of competition.”

Budgetary issues are not the only reason for improvements in space procurement. Streamlining and updating procurement policies to include commercial satellites in long-term plans will also greatly assist the shift of DoD resources to the Asia-Pacific region, and help address the fact that bandwidth needs continue to accelerate, driven by the increased use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications.

The commercial satellite industry has worked closely with the DoD for over 20 years. We look forward to working collaboratively with our military customers to implement the important changes called for in the FY 14 NDAA.

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