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Leveraging Commercial Innovation

Lori Garver, former Deputy Administrator at NASA gave an interview to The Commercial Space Blog on November 23, 2017. During this, Ms Garver advocated several positions related to how best the US Government could leverage technological developments that commercial industries are bringing ever faster to market. I think several of the approaches she highlighted are applicable to the commercial satellite market that has successfully supported DoD actions across the world for the past two decades.

Ms Garver was quoted as saying “that tax payer dollars must never be wasted again on big missions ….. the government role is to invest in leading edge, enabling technology, so that commercial concerns can optimize the technology” While there are some non-economic reasons for the Government to take the lead, the days of the large Government programs that deliver essentially what commercial can bring at lower cost and lower risk are limited. Ms Garver was quoting from a NASA study comparing the “old space” model (classic large programs) to the “new space” models where industry drives innovation, claiming that savings in the new space model far exceeded those of the old space model.

Can, or should, Lori Garver’s words on letting commercial lead the way on large capability programs apply to the Wideband AoA? While she was talking about NASA specifically, surely many of the thoughts resonate across the capability spectrum to wideband satellite communications, and certainly they echo the same sentiments of those commercial satellite operators who have supported DoD so successfully over the past 20 years.

No rational person believes that DoD will never need to use a commercial satellite again – the record over the past 20 years has been that the vast majority of DoD broadband satellite communications has been carried on commercial satellites. So let us spend our time designing a construct that will enable DoD to plug in commercial capabilities when needed, where needed, in the most painless way possible – both technically and contractually. On the industry side, we stand ready to help.