DOD Plan Would Make Space Command Global Operator of Satellite Networks

Westend61/Getty Images

The Pentagon is seeking to modernize its satellite communications capabilities by, in part, outlining some of the responsibilities of its agencies and commands.

The Department of Defense is planning to modernize its satellite communications—or SATCOM—networks into a “resilient enterprise” that will place the U.S. Space Command as the global operator of the network, according to an implementation plan that was publicly released by the department’s chief information officer on Jan. 18. 

The Enterprise Satellite Communications Management and Control—or ESC-MC—Implementation Plan outlines a phased approach for modernizing SATCOM’s capabilities, including the roles that relevant DOD agencies will play in working to mitigate any threats to the networks. 

According to the implementation plan, the strategy “establishes the foundation for establishing ESC-MC for the DOD SATCOM community and fielding those capabilities in a phased manner to begin the incremental improvement of the management of SATCOM at the soonest practicable time.”

Defense Department Chief Information Officer John Sherman said in a memorandum accompanying the plan that it “will facilitate United States Space Command's role as the global SATCOM manager by delivering operationally relevant SATCOM resource planning and allocation.”

Under the new plan, Space Command will serve as the global SATCOM operations manager and “operator of the ESC-MC capability,” while the Space Force will act as “the force design architect and capability sponsor for ESC-MC,” and the DOD CIO will serve “as the lead architect for ESC-MC.” The Defense Information Systems Agency will also act “as a DOD enterprise service provider and DOD information network representative.”

The plan outlines three phases for implementing ESC-MC, including establishing the “initial standards and governance,” achieving “the necessary and foundational services, data and network management integration” and completing the “full instantiation of ESC-MC capabilities.”

This includes working to ensure the development of seven core enterprise capabilities, such as “integrated data storage management,” “network access control” and “enterprise network management to element management communications.”

DOD said that the plan to modernize its satellite networks “will increase the flexibility, agility and resiliency of DOD SATCOM, while leveraging the full use of a hybrid, heterogeneous enterprise that uses the best mix of commercial and military solutions.”

Sherman noted that the plan supports the Space Force’s Vision for Satellite Communications and the goal of DOD’s Digital Modernization Strategy to “strengthen overall adoption of enterprise systems to expand the competitive space in the digital arena.” The five-year modernization strategy, released in 2019, outlines how DOD plans to improve oversight and allocation of its approximately $46 billion annual IT budget. 

“DOD components are expected to appropriately resource capabilities outlined in the implementation plan through deliberate planning, programming and budgeting,” Sherman added.