Key Issues > Duplication & Cost Savings > GAO's Action Tracker > DOD Commercial Satellite Communications Procurements (2016-01)
defense icon, source: [West Covina, California] Progressive Management, 2008

Defense: DOD Commercial Satellite Communications Procurements (2016-01)

Enforcing existing acquisition policy and identifying opportunities to centralize the Department of Defense's procurement of commercial satellite communications services could create opportunities to potentially save tens of millions of dollars annually.

Action:

The Secretary of Defense—in coordination with stakeholders including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Strategic Command, combatant commands, the military services, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)—should enforce current policy requiring DISA to acquire all commercial satellite communications (SATCOM) for the Department of Defense (DOD).

Progress:

As of December 2018, DOD had not taken action to adhere to its requirement that DISA acquire all commercial satellite communications for DOD. DOD policy required DISA to procure all commercial SATCOM services for DOD components, and in July 2015 GAO recommended that DOD adhere to this policy. At that time, GAO reported that around 32 percent of fixed satellite services had been procured outside of DISA, limiting opportunities for DOD to bundle purchases, share services, and streamline its procurement of commercial SATCOM.

In response to GAO’s recommendation, DOD published Instruction 8420.02 in September 2016 to establish policy, assign responsibilities, and provide direction on the management of its SATCOM resources. Among other things, the policy further specified the actions DOD component heads should follow in requesting commercial SATCOM capability through DISA. However, the National Defense Authorization Act (Act) for Fiscal Year 2018 directed Air Force Space Command to assume sole procurement authority for commercial satellite communications services for DOD, in consultation with the DOD Chief Information Officer.  On December 12, 2018, Air Force Space Command assumed responsibility for DOD commercial SATCOM procurement. It remains to be seen how effectively DOD policy and practices will change to accommodate the Air Force Space Command’s assumption of procurement responsibility, and whether streamlined commercial SATCOM procurement will result.

Action:

The Secretary of Defense—in coordination with stakeholders including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Strategic Command, combatant commands, the military services, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)—should conduct a spend analysis that identifies procurement inefficiencies and opportunities to consolidate purchases. Specifically, the analysis should identify how much is being spent for which services, who the buyers are, who the suppliers are, duplicative contracts and opportunities to aggregate demand, and where the opportunities are for leveraged buying and other tactics to save money and improve performance.

Progress:

As of September 2017, DOD has addressed the need for a spend analysis that identifies how much money it is spending on commercial satellite communications and opportunities for leveraging those investments. U.S. Strategic Command issued its Fiscal Year 2014 Commercial Satellite Communications Usage report in October 2016, which contains a spend analysis that identifies opportunities for consolidation and improvement of commercial satellite communications procurement, as GAO recommended in July 2015. Specifically, the report identifies expenditures and usage by satellite communications services (both fixed and mobile), vendor, owner, mission, contract type, and satellite operator, among others. The report recommends several areas for improved procurement, including increased use of global managed services and higher throughput satellites. By analyzing more robust expenditure and usage data, DOD can better leverage its buying power and understand its military and commercial satellite communications spending. 

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense
  • portrait of
    • Cristina Chaplain
    • Director, Contracting and National Security Acquisitions
    • chaplainc@gao.gov
    • (202) 512-4841