Military Satellite Communications:

Opportunity to Save Billions of Dollars

NSIAD-93-216: Published: Jul 9, 1993. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) plans for military communications satellites, focusing on: (1) alternatives contained in its 1991 military satellite communications architecture study; (2) development of low-cost technologies for future satellite systems; and (3) plans to implement follow-on satellite acquisitions.

GAO found that: (1) the DOD study identified 12 alternatives for its communications satellite needs; (2) DOD chose the second-highest-cost alternative because of high mission supportability and the low to moderate program and system transition risk; (3) other alternatives, specifically the common bus designs, could satisfy DOD communications requirements at a significantly lower cost; (4) DOD lacks a coordinated process to implement modern satellite technology; (5) DOD development of the dual common bus technology is at a more advanced stage than single common bus technology development; (6) DOD could introduce modern technology into its defense satellite communications system plans by including a dual common bus capability and revising launch schedules to avoid an excessive number of satellites in orbit at any one time; and (7) DOD could replace its Milstar satellites with the dual common bus design and reduce the costs of the other satellite systems by inserting modern technology into its existing communications systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the opportunity to insert technology into the Milstar program and decided to terminate the planned procurement of two Milstar satellites while proceeding with an advanced design.

    Recommendation: In view of opportunities to reduce long-term costs of military satellite communications, the Secretary of Defense should not make any decisions regarding replenishment of existing military satellite communication systems until a coordinated process is established to insert modern technology into the architecture.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with the opportunity to insert technology into the Milstar program and decided to terminate the planned procurement of two Milstar satellites while proceeding with an advanced design.

    Recommendation: In view of opportunities to reduce long-term costs of military satellite communications, the Secretary of Defense should reassess the dual common bus alternative as a means of inserting modern technology,, in addition to other alternatives being assessed in the bottom-up review, to preclude continuation of customized satellites.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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