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The Department of Defense's (DOD) procurement of commercial satellite communications (SATCOM), or bandwidth, is fragmented and inefficient. Historically, commercial SATCOM was used to augment military capability, but DOD has become increasingly reliant on commercial SATCOM to support ongoing U.S. military operations. DOD policy requires all of its components to procure commercial SATCOM through the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), but the GAO found that some components are independently procuring SATCOM to meet their individual needs. DOD's most recent SATCOM usage report estimates that over 30% of commercial SATCOM is bought independently by DOD components, even though DOD found the average cost of commercial SATCOM bought through DISA is about 16% lower than independently bought commercial SATCOM. Fragmentation limits opportunities for DOD to bundle purchases, share services, and streamline its procurement of commercial SATCOM.
The Senate Armed Services Committee's report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 included a provision for DOD to report on the future mix of military and commercial SATCOM and for the GAO to review DOD's report, issued in August 2014. This report (1) assesses the extent to which DOD efficiently procures bandwidth, (2) analyzes the extent to which DOD has identified its future SATCOM requirements using DOD and commercial satellite services, as well as how those requirements will be met, and (3) identifies the steps DOD is taking to improve its procurements of commercial SATCOM.
The GAO recommended that DOD (1) enforce current policy requiring DISA to acquire all commercial SATCOM; (2) conduct a spend analysis identifying procurement inefficiencies and opportunities; and (3) assess whether further centralization of commercial SATCOM procurement could be beneficial.