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Transformational Communications Study (TCS)

In early fiscal year 2002, DOD initiated a Transformational Communications Study to accelerate the delivery of advanced capabilities with state-of-the art technology to the field. The study is led by the National Security Space Architect (NSSA) and is springboarding off the NSSA's Mission Information Management Communications Architecture. The study is examining increased intersystem connectivity via optical crosslinks, greater reliance on ground fiber where possible, and the use of commercial assets as appropriate. Potentially, all U.S. government satellite communications programs in planning or development could be affected.

The DoD is transitioning to a fast reaction mobile strike force with increasing reliance on unmanned, autonomous systems. This results in an increased dependence on reliable, timely communication of information across US and Coalition forces. The existing communication infrastructure has served the community well, however a leap in capability is required to meet the rapidly increasing demand for bandwidth and connectivity.

A transformational, network-centric communication architecture that leverages commercial, DoD and National developments is required to address these emerging needs with an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) objective no later than FY10. The program is fully funded to achieve a late FY-09 launch. The Office of the Secretary of Defense initially pushed for an FY-09 launch of the laser-equipped satellites while the Air Force called for a more conservative FY-12 launch date.

Transformational Communications Study (TCS) is based on the Program Decision Memorandum (PDM IV), 28 December 2001 and the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Study titled Availability and Survivability of Militarily Relevant Commercial Space Systems. This architecture should support the entire spectrum of end user information exchange (i.e. Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance [ISR] sensors, Theater Battle Management Core System(s) [TBMCS], forward observer using Joint Tactical Radio System [JTRS] etc.) across following mission areas: (i) Protected Tactical Services: Anti-jam, low probability of intercept (LPI) and low probability of detection (LPD) capability as a follow-on to the Milstar and Advanced EHF (AEHF) programs. (ii) Wideband Services: Support for protected and non-protected tactical, broadcast, and fixed sites as a replacement or follow-on for Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS), Global Broadcast System (GBS), and Wideband Gapfiller Satellite (WGS). (iii) Protected Strategic Services: Anti-scintillation, anti-jam, low probability of intercept (LPI) and low probability of detection (LPD) capability for nuclear Command & Control (C2) world-wide as a follow-on to the Milstar, Interim-Polar and AEHF programs. (iv) Data Relay/Retrieval and Command Forwarding Services: support for satellites and high-altitude aircraft and Unmanned Airborne Vehicles (UAV). (v) Narrowband Services: Support for mobile and handheld services as a replacement or follow on for UHF Follow-On (UFO) Mission area. Narrowband Services may be omitted if integration becomes problematic.

The study addressed the following high-level objectives: (i) Wideband space-to-space and space-to-high altitude airborne communications utilizing a common standard for laser communication. (ii) A network architecture that allows communications between users regardless of platform or terminal type. (iii) Integration of common services that support DoD, NRO, and NASA. (iv) The resulting architecture must not jeopardize current operational capabilities (i.e. requires smooth transition). The new architecture must provide connectivity to legacy systems during the transition period and be launched in a timely fashion to prevent capability/coverage gaps. (v) Be interoperable with Coalition, NATO, and International Partners, to include Wideband, Protected Tactical, and Protected Strategic services, and honor current and pending international agreements. (vi) The system(s) must address known requirements but offer opportunity to meet increasing demand for more bandwidth. All proposed solutions must also be extensible, i.e. able to grow with ease over time, as user needs evolve and leverage commercial ground (i.e. terrestrial fiber) and space assets to the extent feasible.

The study confirmed that the baseline program plan would not meet forecast requirements and that we needed to transform our communications architecture. The study also suggested that there was a window of opportunity to provide an architectural framework for a compatible communications system across the Department of Defense and the intelligence community that could increase our capabilities by a factor of ten. The Transformational Communications Office is going to develop the detailed architecture and the acquisition strategy to make this communications goal a reality. The office will coordinate the acquisition implementation of the various system elements of the architecture under the existing program offices, using established authorities and budgets. This will also allow the Transformational Communications Office to use best practices in program management in contracting resources from across a broad spectrum of organizations. Each service or agency will remain responsible for managing their individual programs within the framework of the Transformational Communications Architecture.

In July 2002 SI International received a four and one-half year, $1.9 million award to provide technical, engineering, and consulting services in support of the Headquarters Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Military Satellite Communications Systems Division. As the prime contractor, SI International supports the transition and conversion from current satellite communication systems to Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and the National Strategic Satellite Communications System (NSSS). SI International will provide technical analysis, consulting and engineering assistance services in support of AFSPC; guidance on the Transformational Communications Study (TCS); and, transition and terminal interoperability analysis for the NSSS Implementation plan. Specifically, SI International will develop a NSSS network transition plan highlighting critical paths and design a satellite communications system transition database.




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