Does DOD Need a Dedicated System of High Altitude Satellites To Meet Its Strategic Communications Requirements for the Next Decade?

LCD-80-59: Published: May 9, 1980. Publicly Released: May 14, 1980.

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The Department of Defense (DOD) began developing Nuclear Forces Communications Satellites (STRATSAT) as a result of a 1979 review. The Air Force maintained that a system of very high altitude communications satellites would frustrate any enemy attempt at an antisatellite attack against those resources. In addition, a maneuvering capability would be added to the system as an added dimension against physical attack. The system would provide enhanced communications and anti-jamming capabilities. In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the DOD justification for the system.

GAO found that the physical threat to the survivability of strategic satellites was apparently misinterpreted by the Air Force in its justification, and the upgrade of the presently approved system of satellites was both a viable and less expensive approach. Therefore, GAO felt that the DOD decision was based on erroneous information and should be reconsidered.

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