[Via Satellite 04-10-2015] The United States Strategic Command’s (U.S. Stratcom) Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) is planning to bring in a body of commercial satellite industry officials in the coming months to tighten relations between government and industry. Speaking at an April 10 Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event, Lt Gen John Raymond, Commander, 14th Air Force (Air Forces Strategic), Air Force Space Command (AFSPC); and Commander of Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC) said the industry group will commence in early June and begin weighing in more regularly on space decisions made by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).
“We are going to have a cell of commercial space operators that will reside at the JsPOC, sit sid-by-side with us, and will allow us to be able to share information more easily, allow us to plan together, and allow us to capitalize on the benefits and capabilities,” he said.
Raymond said the catalyst for the group was a war games event at Schriever Air Force base in Colorado, where commercial capabilities provided by Intelsat General played a prominent role in decision making. He claimed the importance of commercial satellite players was one of, if not the most important conclusions from the war games.
“We are starting with a prototype and that prototype will work for about six months to a year to grow this and figure out what it can become,” he added.
Six companies will comprise the prototype commercial cell, of which Intelsat General is a member. Raymond said the U.S. Stratcom has been developing the commercial cell idea for the past four to five months, and will soon be ready to begin the experiment.
“It will help us share information, which is critical going forward. It will help us share information with [Space Situational Awareness] SSA, it will help us with electromagnetic interference, and it will help the commercial [industry] as well understand the threats out there that they are facing,” he said.
Raymond helps co-host commercial operator talks between government and industry, which have increased the level of military interfacing with industry. Commercial operators gather with DOD on a biannual basis to discuss operational issues on topics such as interference, operational concerns, and more.
Raymond said approximately 80 percent of the government’s satellite communications were conducted using commercial systems in recent years and that the number is probably about the same today. At a time, when many satellite operators are still feeling the effects of reduced government spending, DOD’s push to include more industry input is an indicator that the U.S. desires to better understand the importance of the role commercial providers play.
Speaking to Via Satellite, Intelsat General President Kay Sears said leadership within the DOD from Raymond and others such as General Hyten, commander of AFSPC, Admiral Cecil Haney, commander of Stratcom, and Doug Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, are providing a greater, more cohesive sense of direction for industry.
“The number one thing that gives me hope for improvement in the government satcom space is the military and government leadership that is in place right now,” she said. “They are generally leading in the same direction and in terms of leveraging commercial, we are hearing very consistent themes of where they want to go. That’s a first.”
DOD is upping its focus on resiliency and redundancy for satellite communications, and Sears added that the commercial component is a large part of the way the military operates today. Intelsat General has been preparing its EpicNG High Throughput Satellites (HTS) to be ready for demanding U.S. government requirements. Raymond expressed confidence that the prototype commercial cell, along with other dialogues will continue to help government and industry work together more efficiently.
“Our relationship with the commercial industry will continue to grow,” he said. “We operate in the same domain together. They have great capabilities. As the domain becomes more congested and contested, it’s going to require us to have an even closer relationship, and I see that expanding.”
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