Report: U.S. military needs a better way to buy commercial satellite imagery

CSIS: ‘One of many largest obstacles for the U.S. authorities to successfully entry business area capabilities is the acquisition and contracting system’

WASHINGTON — The U.S. navy and intelligence group have a rising demand for satellite tv for pc imagery however their acquisition strategies forestall them from benefiting from a vibrant business market, says a brand new report by the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research. 

Earth commentary corporations gather more and more subtle imagery from area and use synthetic intelligence to research the information.   “The problem for the navy and intelligence group is knowing the way to leverage business capabilities for navy benefit,” says the report written by CSIS analysts Todd Harrison and Matthew Strohmeyer. Satellite tv for pc imagery corporations Hawkeye360, Planet and Umbra offered funding for the examine. 

“One of many largest obstacles for the U.S. authorities to successfully entry business area capabilities is the acquisition and contracting system,” the examine says. 

The U.S. authorities has historically procured distant sensing satellites which are owned and operated by companies just like the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace, the Nationwide Geospatial Intelligence Company or the U.S. House Power. 

The report says this method is suitable for capabilities which are actually distinctive to the federal government, the place the applied sciences concerned are extremely delicate or beautiful, and the place a business market doesn’t exist. Lots of the authorities’s wants, nevertheless, might be met by business suppliers below services-based enterprise fashions, the report says, arguing that by shopping for these providers, the federal government saves cash and shifts the monetary burden of constructing costly constellations to the personal sector. 

“Shopping for distant sensing as a service permits the federal government to leverage personal capital and put extra of those dangers on the businesses concerned and, by extension, their buyers,” the report says. “Shopping for area providers quite than satellites offers business corporations the next incentive to drive down working prices and frequently enhance capabilities to win extra work.”

The report suggests there are a number of methods for the federal government to faucet into these providers. Essentially the most fundamental method is to purchase photos or different knowledge merchandise on a pay-as-you-go foundation, with the federal government being certainly one of many potential prospects. One other is to purchase subscription entry to an organization’s catalog of information, giving the federal government full however not unique entry.

The NRO lately introduced it plans to start out shopping for business area radar knowledge from a number of distributors, signaling that it needs to raised help the trade. 

Harrison instructed table4 that the NRO’s transfer is “a step in the best path, however truthfully, it’s a child step.” The contracts awarded by the NRO “are small and are centered on finding out what knowledge the businesses can present. The true check is how lengthy it takes the NRO to maneuver past examine contracts to actual contracts for artificial aperture radar providers — and for different sorts of business distant sensing as effectively.”

The House Power, he stated, doesn’t want any new authorities to purchase business imagery providers. “It already is aware of the way to price range and contract for providers in different areas. It simply wants a greater technique for the way to use present authorities to leverage business methods.”

Business providers in lots of circumstances can fulfill navy and intelligence group necessities earlier than government-developed methods, Harrison stated. “As soon as it has a method in place for leveraging business methods, the funding might be straightforward to justify, and Congress has been pushing the House Power to do that.”

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