DISA beefs up its ground game for better satellite services

DISA's Program Executive Office for Communications will focus in 2012 on the ground segment of satellite communications.

The Defense Information Systems Agency's Program Executive Office for Communications is keeping its feet planted firmly on the ground in fiscal 2012. Space-based assets appear to be taking a back seat this year to terrestrial networks.

“One of the new thought patterns in DOD is resiliency, but when they talk about it they usually talk about resiliency in space and tend to forget about the ground segment,” said Bruce Bennett, DISA’s program executive officer for communications. “I’m trying to increase the resiliency in the ground infrastructure at the satellite gateways.”

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Among its terrestrial priorities in 2012, DISA is adding Advanced Extremely High Frequency uplink resources to networks, completing waveform phase 2 integration to improve waveform efficiencies for UHF users, deploying and activating the Joint IP Modem network, eliminating the last of the radio frequency switching systems in satellite gateways and continuing the improvements in full-motion video dissemination across satellite communications links.

To get better efficiencies, DISA is implementing new technologies such as the Joint IP Modem (JIPM), which is designed to use the latest modulation schemes to allow more information bits per hertz than was previously possible, Bennett said. JIPM uses several compression algorithms on the IP traffic before digitization, and provides adaptive curve modulation to ensure continual transmission at the maximum possible rate, he said.

According to Bennett, JIPM is up to 200 percent more efficient than current modems. It's operational at two sites, with four more planned in early 2012, that will serve as initial hubs for completing testing for servers and program-developed terminals.

“I have to support the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps with their terminals as they transition to Joint IP Modem,” he said. “We have, of course, our final developmental test that will result in our initial operational capabilities to be certified for general operation later this summer.”

FCSA components

The Defense Department's reliance on commercial satellite communications is close to 90 percent, according to Bennett. This trend will continue in 2012 and for the foreseeable future, he said. To help satisfy that dependency, DISA has teamed with the General Services Administration on the $5 billion Future Comsatcom Services Acquisition (FCSA), which has three components: Fixed Satellite Services, Mobile Satellite Services and Custom Satcom Solutions (CS2).

FCSA Fixed Satellite Services and Mobile Satellite Services are Schedule 70 contracts that have been awarded and are open vehicles until 2027 as a result of an evergreen clause allowing for changes and new vendors to be added at any time over the 20-year contract period.

“We did that because we see the satellite industry as highly dynamic and we wanted our vehicles to be able to leverage all of that,” Bennett said, referring to the acquisition strategy.

The third and final piece of FCSA, CS2, is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. At press time, CS2 was in final source selection. FCSA Fixed Satellite Services is worth roughly $300 million per year, Mobile Satellite Services is estimated at $150 million annually, and CS2 will represent between $80 million and $100 million per year.

“Basically what [CS2] does is fills the gaps between the other two [Fixed Satellite Services and Mobile Satellite Services],” Bennett said. “All of these contracts are long term so we are able to do long-term leasing, leverage new ideas quicker, and we’ll do it on a large-scale buy.”

Regardless of the DOD requirements, Bennett said DISA will have them covered with FCSA’s three contract vehicles.

“Some people have their own terminals and networks and are just looking to buy transponder time on a satellite,” he explained. “And, then we have other people who don’t have any of those capabilities and want to be able to receive a device, point it, turn it on and get their services. So, we have a wide range of customers.”

GSM Strategy

Another high profile 2012 acquisition managed by DISA is the Global Information Grid (GIG) Services Management (GSM) program. GSM-Operations (GSM-O), a $4.6 billion fixed-price, performance-based program with incentives based on cost and performance, that is in final source selection with an award expected in early 2012. GSM-O will provide day-to-day operations and sustainment for the GIG to include provisioning, network operations, user selected services and integrated operations support services.

The source selection process for GSM Engineering Technical Integration (ETI), which is divided into large and small business contracts, has just begun. The initial request for proposals for GSM ETI, which is half the size of GSM-O in terms of contract value, is on the street and DISA is awaiting first response to the request for proposals with questions from potential bidders. An award date for GSM ETI is slated for June.

“We’re trying to open it up to as many vendors as possible so we can get as much diversity and leverage as much of the community out there as we possibly can,” Bennett said.