Army frets over satellite use

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Despite reasonable rates and excellent encryption, Army officials remain uncomfortable about the military's reliance on commercial satellites communications (satcom) to transmit voice, video and data during the war on terrorism.

"We are very concerned about the amount of requirements put on commercial satellites," said Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, director of information operations, space and networks in the Army's Office of the Chief Information Officer. He spoke Sept. 22 at the 2004 Network Centric Operations conference here.

Military satellites provided 80 percent of communications and commercial satcom provided the remaining 20 percent for troops during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. But those numbers reversed during the current military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moran said Army officials are awaiting the December 2005 launch of the first satellite in the $1.3 billion Wideband Gapfiller Satellite program. The program involves "a high-capacity satellite system designed to support the warfighter with newer and far greater capabilities than those provided by current systems, yet is compatible with existing control systems and terminals," according to a Boeing Co. document distributed at the conference. The Chicago-based company heads an industry team that includes Harris Corp. and ITT Industries.

Moran also cited the launches of the military's advanced extremely high-frequency and laser communications satellites later this decade as helping balance out the current reliance on commercial satcom. He and Col. Nick Justice, deputy program executive officer in the Army's Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, said military officials in the meantime can make transport systems and applications more efficient to free more transponder time on existing satellites.

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