Space: December 17, 2002

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Between 2000 and 2002, Department of Defense satellite bandwidth (data transmission demand) doubled, and is expected to at least double every 18 months. By 2000, some 60 percent of Department of Defense satellite capacity had to be leased from commercial firms. While the Department of Defense had it's own communications satellite network (MILSAT), it underestimated the growth of demand. Greater use of the internet and reconnaissance aircraft and UAVs using video cameras quickly used up MILSATs capacity and forced the military to quickly lease capacity on commercial satellites. This was done on the "spot market," meaning the Department of Defense had to pay whatever the market would bear at that moment. Since the military needed more capacity because of operations like Kosovo, the media was also in the market for more capacity. The Department of Defense paid more than ten times as much as it would have if it had leased (for one to fifteen years) satellite capacity earlier. The situation was made worse by the fact that it was an emergency situation, so every heavy user of satellite communications was making their own deals. This resulted in some users (air force, or, say, the Atlantic Fleet) having some extra capacity when someone else, like Army Special Forces, was still short. The Department of Defense is trying to get Congress to come up with the money for long term lease of commercial satellites and pooling of these leased birds so that communications capacity can be given out to whoever needs it most. So if you hear something in the new about Congress and "leasing satellites for the military," this is what it's all about.

 


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