Department of Defense Actions to Modify its Commercial Communications Satellite Services Procurement Process

GAO-06-480R: Published: Apr 17, 2006. Publicly Released: Apr 17, 2006.

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William T. Woods
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The Department of Defense (DOD) continues to rely on commercial satellite communications to plan and support operations. DOD use of commercial satellite bandwidth has increased over the past few years, making the department the largest single customer of commercial satellite bandwidth. In recent years, DOD's process for acquiring commercial satellite communications has received criticism for being lengthy, inflexible, and costly. DOD is now reexamining how it procures commercial satellite services to address these issues. Congress asked us to summarize the actions that DOD has taken to date in revising its requirements and acquisition approach for commercial satellite services.

DOD has taken several actions to develop a new approach for procuring commercial satellite communications services. On December 14, 2004, the department issued a new policy for implementing an approach for planning, acquiring, and managing commercial fixed satellite services. To address the cost-effectiveness element of the new policy, in July 2005, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) completed a cost-benefit analysis that considered multiple options for procuring satellite services. DOD is working to determine how to improve its procurement processes by studying different acquisition methods. Also, DOD has been reaching out to industry in order to learn about capabilities and costs related to the planning, acquisition, and management of commercial fixed satellite services. DOD will make a final determination on whether the existing or modified contracts can meet the full range of capabilities needed by the warfighters or whether any successor contracts will be required. In parallel, DOD and DISA officials are working with the Navy to consolidate the Navy's worldwide satellite communications requirements under one task order. Upon completing the above mentioned analysis and determining the success of the Navy consolidation effort, DOD expects to have the information necessary to finalize its approach for acquiring commercial satellite communications.

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