U.S. Navy Showing the Way Forward on Commercial SATCOM


Recently an excellent Q&A was published by Via Satellite.  The magazine interviewed Bill Flynn, Vice President at SES Government Services. The interview covered the challenges commercial providers face in trying to deliver the SATCOM needed so badly by the American military.

[Disclosure – Bill and I were Midshipmen together, have worked together on the CBSP program and are good friends.]

We’ve written previously here on SatCom Frontier about the importance of forging a closer partnership with our military customers. We want to be able to provide the bandwidth that is so necessary in today’s net-centric world, and we want to be able to respond immediately to any geographic or frequency requirement of the military.

As Bill noted in his interview, it’s a real challenge to provide the military all the bandwidth required at the right location, at the exact right time and at the best price. Short term spot purchasing of bandwidth and the reluctance to share with industry expected SATCOM requirements ahead of time are some factors that impede our service delivery to the warfighter.

However, the U.S. Navy has been innovative and proactive regarding these challenges. Unlike the other branches of the military, the Navy does establish baseline SATCOM requirements for each global region. It orders SATCOM capacity to meet those expected levels. And the Navy goes one step further – it builds in agreed-to pricing for surge capacity in three different frequency bands.

This allows the Navy to quickly ramp up and ramp down by amount or frequency as theater needs dictate. Thanks to this type of procurement, there are never any surprises when it comes to commercial SATCOM for the Navy.

Another innovative approach by the Navy is the Commercial Bandwidth Satellite Program (CBSP). CBSP is a close partnership of SES GS, IGC and other smaller commercial companies, giving the Navy access to the largest satellite networks in the world. It’s a full end-to-end solution with quality control managed by IGC that provides the Navy with unparalleled access and flexibility.

Already far ahead of the other branches in SATCOM procurement, the Navy isn’t standing pat. Due to the nature of naval operations, it will never be easy to establish SATCOM needs for multiyear periods of time. That said, the Navy is looking at the new FY 2014 NDAA language that calls on the DoD to consider multiyear leases to reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

Military needs around the world are by their very nature dynamic and hard to predict. That makes serving the government customer hard enough without also adding complexity and delay in the procurement process. I’m sure Bill would agree when I say I hope other branches of the military look to the Navy for better ways to access critical SATCOM capacity.

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