Rewriting Acquisition Rules a Benefit for Military Users of COMSATCOM

The Department of Defense and Congress are joining efforts to review and rewrite the currently cumbersome military acquisition policies to help cut costs and streamline the overall process, a step that could have far-reaching implications for the commercial satellite industry.

Whereas previous acquisition reforms made the process more complicated and difficult to implement due to the often-incomprehensible language and nature of the polices, lawmakers are confident that these new efforts will provide a tremendous benefit to the U.S. military.

What makes this effort unique, and has many believing that it will yield positive outcomes, is that the Pentagon and Congress are tackling this challenge together.

The House Armed Services Committee’s vice chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) is leading the project on the Congressional side with support from Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“The idea is not to really change any of the intent behind the existing laws, but just to simplify that body of law, make it more comprehensible, make it easier to implement and make it something that is much more focused on results and not as confusing and complex for everybody,” Kendall said in a recent Defense News article.

In addition, this effort will aim to better understand the incentives for the program managers – what are they rewarded for, what are they punished for – because that’s more important than any new law or regulation that is imposed on them from the top.

In regards to the acquisition of commercial satellite communications (COMSATCOM) services, this is a welcome effort that will help enhance the current procurement process, which many believe is too expensive, lacks foresight and can potentially compromise the military mission. In addition, the acquisition process for many items is disadvantageous to industry partners, who often serve as the foundation for the mission success of our nation’s SATCOM efforts.

Earlier this year, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) Chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, also provided some encouraging insights into how the U.S. military should change the way it purchases commercial satellite services.

Chairman Rogers provided in-depth commentary into the impact of costly short-term leases and “spot market” purchases of COMSATCOM, as well as the need to move away from the nation’s reliability on Chinese satellite systems.

The combination of this new, joint acquisition reform effort and Chairman Rogers’ vision for changing COMSATCOM procurement policies are a welcome sign that new changes will be coming that will benefit the government and specifically the military.

With the need for COMSATCOM services continuing to increase along with more advanced mission goals, creating a new acquisition environment makes complete sense.  Defense Secretary Hagel’s recent budget announcement included a reference to our adversaries, and the fact that the U.S. can no longer take its dominance in space, the skies and in the seas for granted. This effort will enable the U.S. military to have a competitive advantage over adversaries in a way that does not break the bank.

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