Congressional appropriators surprised the satellite industry by adding two more Boeing Wideband Global Satcom satellites to their omnibus spending measure last month. Commercial satellite operators aren’t happy, because the move will make it more difficult for them to increase their share of the military’s communications spend. However, there are compelling reasons for buying two more WGS birds. First, military demand for high-rate, reliable communications is growing fast. Second, the Air Force isn’t ready to disclose how it wants to alter its space architecture for wideband communications in the future. Third, commercial satcoms lack essential security features needed to support military operations. Fourth, transitioning to a new architecture will entail risks, which Congress is trying to minimize with its unexpected add. Finally, resilience is more important than minimizing costs in whatever architecture the Air Force picks, and at the moment WGS looks a lot more resilient than anything the commercial sector has to offer. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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