Army CIO Boutelle says military services rely too heavily on commercial satellites

Army CIO Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle looks forward to the day when the government launches its own satellites and becomes less dependent on commercial satellites for communications.

'The stuff that we're putting in today is not where I want to go,' Boutelle emphasized at the recent Military Communications Conference 2004 in Monterey, Calif., adding that the military conducts roughly 80 percent of its communications in Iraq via commercial satellites.

The Air Force has selected Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. to compete for the prime slot in the multibillion-dollar Transformational Communication Satellites program and will pick the winner in 2006.

Lockheed also recently completed installation of the Coalition Multinational Network, a network-centric satellite system designed for U.S. troops to communicate with coalition forces.

Commercial satellites currently in use give troops in Iraq access to the Global Information Grid, the Defense Department's multibillion-dollar project to build a massive network for communications and data exchange.

Satellites and space systems give U.S. and allied forces an advantage they must continue to exploit, said Air Force Gen. Lance W. Lord, commander of the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

Lord said when he joined the military in 1969, 'we were the epitome of functional stovepipes,' but that space capabilities over the past several decades helped United States forces monitor the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In the early 1990s, Lord said, military reliance on space assets grew. During the current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, space systems became integrated with air, land and sea technologies.

The next step is for the military to devise better techniques for breaking down the massive amount of data collected by space-based systems into useful information, he said.

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