The Government Accountability Office continues to critique the Department of Defense’s administration of narrowband satellite communications
According to a new analysis by the State Accounting Office (GAO), US military narrowband satellites are overloaded, with insufficient capacity to meet customer needs. The Mobile Consumer System (MUOS), a network of five geosynchronous satellites operated by the US Navy, is the subject of a report released on September 2. two decades ago.
Although the entire constellation MUOS has been in orbit for 4 years, the Department of Defense has not provided enough consumer telephones and terminals to take advantage of the more modern payload with broadband code with multiple access (WCDMA). Most customers have older terminals that can only communicate with MUOS’s historic ultra-high frequency (UHF) load. GAO has previously criticized the Department of Defense on this issue, and this latest report shows that the problems have not been resolved.
“The Ministry of Defense has failed to take advantage of the system’s improved capabilities, such as a 10-fold increase in communication capacity. According to GAO, the delayed delivery of appropriate radio terminals to military users is one of the main reasons. In response to GAO’s findings, the Department of Defense said it was funding and developing strategies to speed up the delivery and delivery of such terminals. The US space force recently took over the MUOS system from the Navy.
“Consumer needs will continue to be met until the Department of Defense considers alternative options and takes action to offer other short-term narrowband options as it moves to advanced MUOS capabilities,” GAO concluded. The study also warns that the Department of Defense will face a problem in selecting what comes after the current MUOS capacity to ensure that the SATCOM requirements of the narrow-band fighter are met before 2034, when expects the existing MUOS system to shrink.
Over the years, GAO has punished the Department of Defense for its disjointed administration of the MUOS program. The Navy was responsible for acquiring ground systems and satellites. However, the main customers were the army’s ground and marine personnel, who were responsible for purchasing their MUOS terminals.
Initially, the navy and the army planned to deploy MUOS satellites and the corresponding terminals at the same time, but technical problems suppressed this plan. GAO said the Navy began developing MUOS in 2004 and had problems during operational tests. That same year, the military began building mobile, software-defined radio terminals, some of which may be MUOS-compliant but also run into development issues.
According to GAO, the Pentagon should consider additional options for providing narrowband satellite communications capabilities in the near future. It was also suggested that the Ministry of Defense review its future requirements for narrowband satellite communications so that the space forces could begin designing a MUOS replacement program.