Robert Levinson, senior defense analyst at Bloomberg Government, discusses the surprise DoD communications satellites in the 2018 omnibus bill, and the CIA’s open source efforts.
The 2018 omnibus budget bill included a big surprise for space contractors. The Department of Defense has signed a $600 million contract with Boeing to produce two additional wide-band communications satellites. Robert Levinson, senior defense analyst at Bloomberg Government, says that the funding shows that the Pentagon is more willing to work with industry in space, but they still want to operate their own satellites. “Here you have DoD saying, ‘we want to buy a couple of genuine military satellites for our control.’ There is commercially available bandwidth that the DoD has used in the past, and the commercial industry has been pushing for DoD to use that more, and [they’re signaling] ‘we’re going in the opposite direction.’” Levinson said that while the Pentagon doesn’t want to lease any satellites, they’re probably going to use a private launch provider to get the hardware into space. “ULA [Boeing and Lockheed Martin] used to have the monopoly on launches… and now you have Elon Musk competing and he’s getting government contracts,” Levinson said. “They have used commercial bandwidth in the past and contracted out for it. But they’ve done some studies in the past which said, ‘we think it’s better if we have our own satellites.’”