US, Australia program could be a model for future SATCOM
When the Defense Department and Australian Defence Force pursued a collaboration that began with a letter from then-DOD CIO John Grimes, it was unlikely either side expected that in three years a commercial satellite with an Australian payload would launch with U.S. equipment on board.
That’s exactly what will happen this spring when an ultra-high frequency hosted payload owned by the ADF will go up aboard the Intelsat IS-22 space craft, according to members of a panel who spoke March 12 at the Satellite 2012 conference in Washington.
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For the process to take only three years is nearly unprecedented by DOD standards, and officials credit early and persistent action along with an ability to be creative and flexible in considering solutions.
“We began the political process very early on with shared [memorandums of understanding],” which reduced staffing requirements and helped better define needs and requirements, said Maj. Gen. Tim McOwan, DSC, CSM, head of Australian Defence Staff, ADF.
To make it all work, parties involved have to “be ready to contract outside normal lines,” McOwan said.
One of DOD’s top priorities was partner capacities “in areas we needed it, when we needed it,” said Patricia Gamble, director of International Affairs in the office of the DOD CIO. “It was driven by the need for capacity ... and our timelines.”
The Australians’ reputation for frugality was an additional bonus, Gamble added.
While the joint effort was a prime example of strategic international military partnerships, it was also critical to meeting the needs of troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“At the end of the day the user doesn’t care where the communications come from,” said Vince Squitieri, program manager for the communications program office, PEO C4I. “The best way to respond is to make sure the warfighter has an array of communications ... and satellite options. Resilient communications can best be achieved by having flexibility.”
The hosted payload arrangement is in keeping with broader DOD plans for satellite communications. According to a DOD release, Air Force Gen. William L. Shelton, commander of the Air Force Space Command, March 8 testified before a House of Representatives panel on the criticality of space communications. He outlined hosted payloads, commercial augmentation and international cooperation as being key to SATCOM resiliency.
According to Gamble, the door is open to another MOU in the future.
“This will be part of the equation ... as long as it is cost-effective and meets needs,” she said.
Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.