by Kay Sears - President Intelsat General
Bethesda, MD (SPX) Jan 07, 2013
The recent "guidance" from the Pentagon's Chief Information Officer on hosting military payloads on commercial satellites has caused much confusion among satellite operators. The three-page document, issued in late September, sets out policies that should be followed when radiofrequency spectrum set aside for military capabilities is used on a separate payload attached to a commercial satellite operating in civilian spectrum bands.
At the recent SATCON conference in New York, Charles L Beames, strategic adviser, space and intelligence, in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, described the guidance document as "well intentioned" but said the DoD intended to issue a clarification of the document by the end of the year.
The CIO document certainly does need clarification. For one thing, the guidance document seems to blur the dividing line between commercial ownership of a satellite and DoD control over the use of government spectrum. Although a hosted payload can rely on both of these resources, they remain distinct, with unique legal and regulatory characteristics.
For example, the guidance suggests that the hosted payload would have priority for satellite resources, yet resource priority has nothing to do with spectrum but is, rather, the outcome of an often complex commercial negotiation. Similarly, the document seeks to declare that the commercial operator would be responsible for mitigating any interference to the hosted payload, yet there is a high probably that because the payload is utilizing military spectrum, it would require at best a joint effort around interference mitigation since blue-on-blue interference is the vast majority of all interference incidents.
Rather than creating a list of "well intentioned" guidelines internally within the government, it would have been far preferable for the CIO's office to seek a creative dialogue with industry. Almost every one of the issues raised in the guidance memo was identified and successfully negotiated within the context of the Intelsat/Australian Defense Force (ADF) Agreement regarding the IS-22 satellite.
Intelsat hosted the ADF's military UHF payload aboard the IS-22 satellite. The satellite, launched last April, has commercial C- and Ku-band transponders serving Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia and a UHF payload supporting the Australian military in the Indian Ocean Region. The ADF has leased part of the payload to the U.S. Navy to support its operations in the region.
The guidance document appears to reflect DoD's anxiety about losing control of valuable spectrum. The DoD has become more protective of its spectrum assets after the planned LightSquared network threatened to interfere with the military's Global Positioning System and the White House began pushing to free up unused DoD spectrum for non-military terrestrial applications. We agree that spectrum is indeed a valuable asset, and should be a key strategic advantage. We believe combining military and commercial spectrum on satellites and payloads is an even greater capability than the DoD should investigate.
The ownership of the spectrum has never been the issue - it clearly would be licensed to the DoD. But the satellite would clearly remain commercial property. The DoD needs to recognize that a commercial satellite operator serving global customers would need to coordinate that activity with the hosting service provided to the DoD.
The CIO needs to hit the reset button on spectrum guidance and come back with a policy document that can foster a creative partnership between the DoD and commercial operators offering hosted payload opportunities to the military.
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