SatCom policies slammed by Inmarsat executive

Inmarsat Government Services President Rebecca Cowen-Hirsh voices concerns that the policies and structure of GSA and DISA's satellite communications procurement won't meet the needs of the warfighter.

The argument is that the Navy has more stable requirements — it’s difficult to make changes when the office is on a ship at sea — while DISA has more and smaller users with faster-changing requirements. Can DISA look out five years to foresee requirements?

EDITOR'S NOTE

This is the second part of a two-part interivew with Inmarsat Government Services president Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch.
Click here for part 1

As the president of military and civilian satellite services provider Inmarsat Government Services Inc. and the former Defense Information Systems Agency SatCom program executive officer, Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch has a unique perspective on both the commercial satellite communications industry and Defense Department satellite needs and requirements.

In Part I of this interview, Cowen-Hirsch talked about the upcoming joint DISA-General Services Administration contract vehicle, the Future ComSatCom Satellite Acquisition and its possible shortcomings.

In this second half of her conversation with Washington Technology contributing editor Sami Lais, Cowen-Hirsch spells out how DOD’s budgeting, planning and execution of the Pentagon's SatCom acquisition policy contrive to shoot the department—and especially the warfighter—in the foot.

Washington Technology: One issue that keeps coming up is that, unlike the Navy and commercial enterprises such as NBC, for example, DISA doesn’t make long-term budget commitments for satellite communications services. DISA SatCom Director Bruce Bennett said the agency can’t legally. And all of that contributes to the trend toward stagnant capacity and growing demand which ultimately, it’s speculated, could leave DOD out in the cold. Is there a solution here?

Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch: It would require one on the budget side; it literally would require an act of Congress. Today in fact, the reality is that the DOD, with the notable exception of the U.S. Navy, does not intentionally fund for commercial SatCom. There is no line item anywhere in the defense budget—again, outside of the Navy—that says commercial SatCom is funded here. And because the funding is done in this way, it is more reactive.

WT: But does DOD really have a choice?

Cowen-Hirsch: The other element associated with the manner in which DOD does business is they have the full legal authority to contract for long term. They’ve done it on a number of occasions, so there’s no legal or statutory impediment to long-term contracting. DOD does do long-term contracts; when and if they have the requirements, they can get funding to support that. It’s not unprecedented. It’s not just in the Navy. It’s just not done universally.


Related stories

A $10 billion contract with plenty of questions

Potential FSCA bidders question procurement model


WT:

Cowen-Hirsch: The DOD, in my opinion, has the obligation to evaluate what their base communication requirements are. There’ll always be surge. But there’s a necessity to understand holistically and strategically what your base communication requirements flowing across SatCom will be and to plan for those and budget for those intentionally.

The Navy has done that to a degree, but across the DOD that has not been done. It is a fundamental deficiency in the manner in which the DOD addresses its Com/SatCom requirements. They do not plan strategically, so they do not acquire strategically. And, of course, it is not funded intentionally. Instead, Com/SatCom requirements are paid for by supplemental dollars. This administration has made it very clear that they intend to review supplemental resources over time and roll those requirements into the appropriated budget.

WT: And if that actually happens?

Cowen-Hirsch: We’re approaching what could be the potential perfect storm insofar as there would be no supplemental dollars to acquire the essential Com/SatCom capabilities that the warfighting, peacekeeping and peace-maintaining aid communities require and depend on so heavily.

WT: So where do you see change coming from: DOD or Congress? Will it be as a direct result of funding changes? Or will Congress feel forced to make changes because the DOD bureaucracy isn’t moving fast enough to do it?

Cowen-Hirsch: I think it will need to be externally driven because there are pockets within the DOD where the old adage "if everyone’s in charge, then no one’s in charge" is so very true.

WT: So it’s a leadership vacuum?

Cowen-Hirsch: We have been listening to [Air Force Secretary Michael Donley] talk about where the U.S. Air Force is going in evaluating its role as the executive agent for space and its evolving influence. And you can hear the Army, which is a significant consumer of Com/SatCom bandwidth, express an increased demand.

The Space Posture Review  draft version went up to Capitol Hill and because this is such a critical capability, it will require focused attention, direction and execution.

And there is no assistant secretary of Defense for networks information and integration [DOD’s CIO]. [Former Michigan and California CIO] Teri Takai has been nominated, but there is a dearth of leadership right now in the department in terms of policy and direction. StratCom has been relatively silent in the SatCom arena for some time. And this is a critical capability for the warfighter. Truthfully, we recognize that it’s a very contested environment, budgets are constricting and contracting and if there’s a resource allocation, not just on the financial side, although that’s important, but also on communications and making sure it’s available at the right place at the right time to be able to execute the mission.


WT: What do you see ahead for Com/SatCom?

Cowen-Hirsch: I predict that demand will continue to outstrip available capacity. The increased utilization of IP and broadband networks will actually serve the Department of Defense very well because they can use them to really optimize their capabilities. That of course is the principle behind why we established our I4 constellation and the broadband global area network. It’s all IP-based, it optimizes the network, it’s demand assigned, it’s very flexible, very adaptable. And IP networks is where not only the DOD but also civilian government is going.

I see the user community looking more at what can be done across the network for the application more than what a particular transmission pipe looks like.
I see a convergence of capabilities across the MilSatCom and commercial SatCom, fiber and wireless networks so that from an operational standpoint it becomes more transparent to the end user environment.

Over the next five to X number of years, having Schedule 70 and all these various, distinct and unclearly differentiated contracting mechanisms, I’m not so certain that that operational vision I predicted can be well served by a series of contracts that are executed by GSA.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.