DISA nears end of commercial satellite services build-out

DISA and GSA are close to putting in place the final piece of their jointly managed Future Commercial Satellite Communications Services Acquisition program.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the General Services Administration (GSA) are close to putting in place the final piece of their jointly managed Future Commercial Satellite Communications Services Acquisition (FCSA) program. With the Feb. 17 announcement of the FCSA Custom Satellite Communications Solutions Small Business (CS2-SB) contract award to four firms, only the CS2 full and open contracts remain to be awarded by the end of March.

The five-year, $900 million CS2-SB indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts were awarded to AIS Engineering, By Light Professional IT Services, Knight Sky Consulting and Associates and UltiSat. Now that CS2-SB is open for business, those small businesses will compete for task orders from federal agencies for professional satellite engineering services and custom end-to-end satellite solutions.

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Although these CS2-SB awardees will be able to provide smaller, less complex end-to-end satellite solutions, the Defense Department and other agencies will have to wait for the award of the CS2 full and open contracts, planned for this quarter, for large-scale, end-to-end solutions. Valued at $2.6 billion, CS2 full and open is also an IDIQ contract for customized end-to-end satellite services solutions that include satellite bandwidth, teleport access, network management and engineering support, such as integration, operations and maintenance.

“DISA is being smart in their approach in that they are providing multiple options for their customers to acquire solutions,” said Andy Beegan, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Inmarsat Government, which bid as a prime contractor for CS2 and has GSA Schedule 70 contracts in place for FCSA’s transponded capacity and subscription services Special Item Numbers. “CS2, in particular, gives the customer the ability to unbundle or bundle their requirements as they see fit.”

“FCSA offers the U.S. Government, and particularly the Defense Department, unparalleled access to the best technologies, the most capable staff, and the agility to economically solve our global communications issues,” said Bruce Bennett, DISA’s program executive officer for communications.

FCSA was formed in August 2009 to “help control the burgeoning costs associated with federal agencies use of satellite services and to provide the government with single point access for the purchase and delivery of mission-critical services with significant savings for taxpayers,” according to DISA and GSA.

However, a September 2011 Government Accountability Office report cited a DISA analysis of FCSA’s transponded capacity and subscription services task orders and found that “prices are similar to prevailing market prices in recent years and are generally consistent with bandwidth prices awarded under DSTS-G during fiscal years 2009 and 2010.”

Yet, over time, DISA and industry officials expect the FCSA program to increase competition among eligible vendors and create downward pressure on the government’s cost to acquire fixed satellite services.

“You’re going to see a lot of competition on CS2. You’re already seeing it on the bandwidth and subscription services side of FCSA with companies coming out of the woodwork to compete,” said David Cavossa, vice president and general manager of government solutions at Harris CapRock. “DISA and GSA are getting what they asked for, which is competition.”

“FCSA is a very important contract vehicle for the end-user community to get access to satellite services in a rather clean way,” said Karl Fuchs, vice president of technology for iDirect Government Technologies. “Without FCSA, a lot of organizations would not be able to leverage the technology that exists and get access to the communications that they require.”