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 November 2017, DOD has not addressed GAO’s recommendation from July 2015 that the DOD adhere to its policy that all commercial satellite communications are to be procured by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). GAO reported in 2015 that 32 percent of the fixed satellite services DOD procured in fiscal year 2011 was procured outside of DISA. GAO’s analysis of data contained in a November 2017 report by the DOD Chief Information Officer (CIO), shows this condition worsened slightly from fiscal years 2011 to 2016, with roughly 35 percent of fixed satellite services procured outside of DISA in fiscal year 2016—a practice in conflict with current DOD policy. The DOD CIO report includes analyses, conclusions and recommendations, one of which mirrors GAO’s 2015 recommendation, and reiterates GAO’s findings at that time that contracts procured through DISA have resulted in improved communications efficiency and a lower cost compared to contracts procured outside of DISA. Without adhering to DOD policy—pursuant to the 2013 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 6250.01E, "Satellite Communications"—requiring DISA to procure all commercial SATCOM, DOD remains at risk of perpetuating the costly and inefficient individualized approach of contracting for commercial SATCOM services.

Implementing Entity:

Department of Defense

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