Satcom industry presses for long-term buying

Eighteen months after the Government Accountability Office urged the Defense Department to consider changing its procurement procedures for commercial satellite services, industry is still waiting.

David Helfgott, president and chief executive officer of Americom Government Services, today renewed the call for the Pentagon to come through with recommendations. A December 2003 GAO report had called for the recommendations by April 2005.

"There's an opportunity that really presented itself after the GAO report of 2003 to look at this with fresh eyes," Helfgott said in an address to the Washington Space Business Roundtable.

Satellite services providers want government -- and DOD in particular -- to sign more long-term contracts for satellite bandwidth and minimize the need to purchase satellite access at auctions on short notice.

Because satellites are expensive to build, launch and maintain, and depreciate quickly, "it makes more sense for us to give deep discounts for longer-term leases than to get market value for short-term" arrangements, he said.

DOD accounts for more than 60 percent of the government's satellite market, although NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other civilian agencies are also important customers for satellite communications, or "satcom,", Helfgott said.

"DOD's important, but satcom has become a part of the international communications infrastructure in a big way," he said.

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