DOD launches comm office

Air Force Undersecretary Peter Teets this week announced the launch of a new Defense Department office charged with ensuring that DOD, the intelligence community and NASA have a compatible communications infrastructure.

Teets, who is also director of the National Reconnaissance Office, said the Transformational Communications Office will be implementing "a truly transformational national security space communications system."

Speaking at a Sept. 3 Pentagon press briefing, Teets said a transformational communications study conducted earlier this year outlined a vision for a joint integrated communications network that included both laser and radio frequency communication capabilities.

"The study confirmed that our baseline program plan would not meet forecast requirements and that we needed to transform our communications architecture — [and] that we now have a window of opportunity to provide an architectural framework for a compatible communications system across the Department of Defense and the intelligence community that could increase our capabilities by a factor of 10," he said.

The office will develop a joint architecture and acquisition strategy by coordinating the implementation of various system elements under the existing agency program offices using their authorities and budgets, Teets said.

"Each service or agency will remain responsible for managing their individual programs within the framework of the transformational communications architecture," Teets said, adding that although the office is "very much a joint office it won't have acquisition authority."

Teets said the system will contain various feeder systems that the office will ensure "connect to the warfighter and that the warfighter can get on-demand service from the communication system. When he needs something in the cockpit of an airplane, it will be there."

The new office will also ensure that the protocols used within the military services, intelligence community and at NASA are compatible and work, so that when an "intelligence community analyst requests a certain piece of information from a database located a long way away, he'll be able to request it and get rapid service, as will the warfighter."

The office, which will have a staff of about 25 people and be located in Fairfax, Va., will look at all technologies, including laser communications, said Navy Rear Adm. Rand Fisher, the office's director.

"But remember, what this is going to do [is] bring together representatives of all of the organizations that currently are involved in communications," Fisher said, "and together come up with the architecture, and then we're going to go execute it — in kind of the lanes that are there." Fisher is also director of communications at the National Reconnaissance Office and commander of the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Space Field Activity.

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