GAO continues to criticize DoD’s management of narrowband satellite communications

DoD is not able to use the advanced features of the system, such as a 10-fold increase in communication capacity.

WASHINGTON – The US military’s narrowband communications satellites have been recharged and do not have enough capacity to meet the needs of consumers, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report was published on September 2 focuses on the Mobile Consumer System (MUOS), a network of five geosynchronous satellites operated by the US Navy. The system is created almost two decades ago such as satellite cellular network for voice and data for mobile forces.

Although the full constellation of MUOS satellites has been in orbit for four years, DoD does not provide enough users headphones and terminals to take advantage of the more advanced payload split code (WCDMA) features. Most users have older terminals that only communicate with the other payload of MUOS, a legacy ultra high frequency (UHF) system. GAO called on DoD for this issue in multiple reports and the latter shows that the problems have not been resolved.

“DoD failed to take advantage of the system’s advanced capabilities, such as a 10-fold increase in communication capacity. “A key reason is the delayed delivery of compatible radio terminals to military users,” GAO said.

The Ministry of Defense, in response to GAO’s findings, said it was funding and developing plans to speed up the delivery and delivery of these terminals. The Navy recently transient management of The MUOS system to the US space forces.

“Consumer needs will remain unmet unless DoD explores additional options and takes steps to provide additional short-term narrowband capabilities during the transition to advanced MUOS capabilities,” GAO said.

The report also warns that DoD “faces the challenge of starting to decide what comes next, as MUOS’s current ability to ensure that SATCOM’s needs for a narrow-band fighter will continue to be met before 2034, when it is expected the current MUOS system to deteriorate. “

Over the years, GAO has criticized DoD for the fragmented management of the MUOS program. The Navy was given responsibility for the purchase of satellites and ground systems, but the main intended customers were the Army and Marines, who were responsible for the purchase of their specific MUOS terminals.

Initially, the Navy and Army planned to display MUOS satellites and compatible terminals at the same time, but technical challenges thwarted that plan. The Navy began developing the MUOS in 2004 and failed during operational tests, GAO noted. That same year, the military began developing portable, software-defined radio terminals — some of which would be compatible with MUOS — and also faced development problems.

GAO said the Pentagon should offer other options for providing narrowband satellite communications services in the near future. He also recommended that the Ministry of Defense update its future requirements for narrowband satellite communications for the Space Forces to begin planning a follow-up program to replace the MUOS.