Home >> January 2008 Edition >> PRIORITY BRIEFING WITH Colonel David C. Uhrich
Vice Commander, Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, El Segundo, California
by Hartley Lesser, Editorial Director, SatNews Publishers

Good day, Colonel Uhrich. We are delighted you are able to take the time to help us understand the role of your command and the major military satellites systems the MILSATCOM Systems Wing (MCSW) develops, acquires and sustains. Can you tell us a little about the Wing?

Colonel Uhrich
At the macro level, the Wing is responsible for wideband and protected MILSATCOM satellites, command and control systems, ground systems and terminals. These systems operate in the Super High Frequency and Extremely High Frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. The U. S. Navy has similar responsibilities for narrowband or Ultra High Frequency communications satellites and systems.

The first and oldest of our constellations is the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS). DSCS is a legacy satellite system and has been the backbone of the U.S. military’s global satellite communications capabilities since the 1980s. Since the first launch of the first DSCS III satellite, this system has been providing anti-jam, high data rate, long-haul communications to deployed and in-garrison users worldwide.

DSCS supports the defense communications system, the Army’s ground mobile forces, the Air Force’s X-band, airborne terminals, Navy ships at sea, the White House Communications Agency, the State Department, and other special users. There are currently 9 DSCS satellites providing global coverage from their locations in geosynchronous orbit.

The process of augmenting and eventually replacing the DSCS satellites began with the successful October 2007 launch of our first Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite. WGS will provide flexible, high-capacity communications for the Nation’s warfighters through operations of WGS and the associated control systems. WGS will also provide a quantum leap in communications bandwidth for marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen. In fact, the first WGS satellite will provide more throughput than the entire DSCS constellation combined. In addition, WGS will not only support X-band communications, but will also have 10 Ka antennas to support a wider variety of military communications requirements. WGS’ digital channelizer will allow on-orbit cross banding between X and Ka-band users.

Both DSCS and WGS are wideband satellite communications systems.

What does the inclusion of the Ka antennas mean to the warfighter?

Colonel Uhrich
First, our Global Broadcast Service, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later, will us WGS’ Ka capability to service to increase it’s coverage area, which means more troops out in the field will have access to GBS. Second, Ka frequencies support high data rates to smaller dish antennas. This means our mobile forces will be lighter, yet more connected. This provision means the warfighter, out in the field, will have greater flexibility, more throughput, and will be one step closer to a true, net centric environment.

The WGS will be the nexgen system—what about plans for legacy system support?

Colonel Uhrich
Our second, major, legacy system is the Milstar satellite communications system. Milstar was designed to provide secure, jam-resistant communications as well as secure strategic communications throughout the entire spectrum of conflict, including a nuclear event.

Milstar is the Department of Defense’s (DoD) most robust and reliable SATCOM system. Milstar was also designed to perform all communications processing and network routing onboard. This eliminates the need for vulnerable, land-based relay stations, which reduces the chances and the opportunities to intercept communications on the ground.

The Milstar systems include 5 satellites in geosynchronous orbit providing global coverage for tactical, mobile and fixed terminals, a command and control system, as well a payload management and control segment. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system will be the follow-on to the Milstar system, and will augment and improve the capabilities of Milstar. Like WGS, a single AEHF will have more capacity than the entire Milstar constellation.

When will AEHF launch?

Colonel Uhrich
The first AEHF satellite is set to launch in November 2008. AEHF will provide connectivity across the spectrum of mission areas, including land, air and naval warfare, special operations, strategic nuclear operations, strategic defense, theater missile defense, and space operations and intelligence. As with Milstar, AEHF will provide global, secure, protected, and jam-resistant communications for high-priority military ground, sea and air assets.

Advanced EHF will allow the National Security Council and Unified Combatant Commanders to control their tactical and strategic forces at all levels of conflict through general nuclear war and supports the attainment of information superiority. Interestingly, the physics of the EHF wavelength make the satellite well suited for strategic communications in a nuclear stressed environment. Plus, the tight beam is a favorite of our tactical and special ops units as it enhances their need for low probability of detection and low probability of interception. Both Milstar and AEHF are considered protected satellite communications systems.
Could you discuss the new TSAT program? Won’t that system, one day, be the replacement for the aforementioned AEHF system?

Colonel Uhrich
The Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) is one of our newest programs. TSAT will augment and eventually replace the AEHF satellite communications system and will provide unprecedented satellite communications with Internet-like capability to extend the DoD Global Information Grid (GIG) to deployed users worldwide as well as deliver an order of magnitude increase in capacity over AEHF.

TSAT will be our first family of satellites to perform on-board/on-orbit routing of data using Internet Protocol (IP), initially IP version 6 in the case of TSAT. This on-board routing, performed by the Next Generation Processor Router, will allow huge increases in satellite efficiency because static connections will no longer have to be established and maintained, whether they are being actively used or not. Like Milstar and AEHF, TSAT will provide worldwide, secure, survivable satellite communications to U.S. strategic and tactical forces during all levels of conflict, in the EHF band.

Unlike Milstar and AEHF, which have Radio Frequency crosslinks to connect the satellites in a ring, TSAT will have laser communications crosslinks. These crosslinks will be capable of moving 40 gigabytes per second when we complete fielding of the 5-satellite (plus an on-orbit spare) constellation. In addition, TSAT will have large antennas to support our tactical force’s need for protected communication-on-the-move, with small diameter vehicle-mounted antennas.

The space segment will also include laser communications and Ka-band RF for air and space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) users. As TSAT will be IPv6 and have an on-board router, mission planning and execution will be an order of magnitude more dynamic—and flexible—than it is today. To address this new capability, the program includes a payload and network management segment called TMOS—the TSAT Mission Operations System. Of note, TSAT will not have common user wideband communications capability, so it is not a follow on to WGS.
What other important programs find the Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center responsible for implementing?

Colonel Uhrich
The Wing is responsible for a number of other important programs. They include:

GBS operates as a one-way, wideband transmission service capable of supporting timely delivery of information products for mission support and theater information transfer. Through 2 Satellite Broadcast Manager facilities, GBS pulls or is pushed data, video (cable news, predator feeds, etc), intelligence products, etc. from a variety of unclassified and classified sources, servers and networks. The GBS operators bring all this content together and build 3 unique broadcasts, tailored for specific information requirements of various Areas of Responsibility, for transmission from 3 different uplink facilities.

The uplinked data is broadcast to fielded receive suites, in much the same manner as satellite television is sent from an uplink facility to a satellite which, in turn, broadcasts the signal to all those dishes you see installed on houses. By broadcasting information, we are able to free up considerable “reachback” communications bandwidth. If GBS can broadcast an intel product to hundreds of users at once, it overcomes the need for each of these users to individually go back to the source, ask for the product and have it sent multiple times to multiple users.

CCS-C provides state-of-the-art satellite command and control systems for our Nation’s military communications satellites. CCS-C replaces a main-framed-based legacy satellite command and control system with a PC-based system. The legacy command and control system displayed screens and screens of data containing information about the satellite; it’s location, temperatures, fuel, orientation, available electricity, and so on. The operator was required to sift all this data into knowledge and understanding about the state of health of the satellite. CCS-C has a highly evolved operator interface that simplifies training, operations, and anomaly resolution. It also improves operator efficiency, accuracy and effectiveness. The new screens don’t necessarily show the raw data to operator, but reveal what the data means in terms of gauges, dials, and colors. 50th SW operators “fly” the satellite bus for DSCS, WGS, Milstar and eventually AEHF satellites using CCS-C.

As mentioned earlier, MCSW has responsibility develop, acquire and operationally deploy and sustain MILSATCOM terminals. These terminals can be fixed, mobile or integrated into a weapons system, such as the B-2, B-52, RC-135s and others. The first set of our terminals is the Family of Advanced Beyond-Line-of-Sight Terminals (FAB-T). The philosophy behind this program is to bring many stove-piped terminal programs under the umbrella of a “family” of terminals. The program aims to establish a common software communications architecture and other commonalities between the various terminals. This reduces developmental costs, increases standardization, establishes common interfaces between terminals and the satellite, while still allowing each platform or user to establish their own form, fit and function requirements.

Increment 1 of this terminal program includes the Advanced Wideband Terminal (AWT) and Command Post Terminal. AWT variants add Advanced EHF capabilities to a number of our aircraft, some of which I mentioned previously. The command post terminal variants upgrade ground and airborne Milstar Command Post Terminals for use with AEHF satellites. FAB-T will support future upgrades to allow interoperability with Transformational Communications Architecture requirements.

The second set of our terminals is the Ground Multi-band Terminal (GMT). With GMT, Air Force tactical units will be able to connect to wideband satellites operating in military X and Ka-band and civilian C, Ku, and X-band frequencies.

The final set of our terminals is the High Data Rate-Radio Frequency Ground Terminal (HDR-RF Ground). HDR-RF ground terminals will deliver an evolutionary upgrade to the GMT by providing the ISR community with High Bandwidth, High Throughput (HBHT) SATCOM capability.


How do, or will, these systems support the warfighter?

Colonel Uhrich
I’m glad you asked about supporting the warfighter. For SMC and certainly the MILSATCOM Systems Wing, this is the real measure of our merit—what space-enabled capabilities are we putting into the hands of the warfighter? It’s not about getting “stuff”. It’s not about spending a billion dollars to put 10,000 pounds of complex hardware and software in orbit 22,300 miles away. It’s not about the thrill of launching a satellite you’ve worked tirelessly on for the last 5 years to design and produce.

It’s about understanding the operational requirement for warfighters, completing the detailed developmental, systems engineering and design work so you know you can actually build it, then producing a satellite that will be highly reliable and available. It’s about synchronizing that effort with similar work that’s being done on the command and control system, terminals and mission planning segment. This means that at the end of the day, you’ve fielded a capability. You’ve put a capability, or more likely, an integrated collection of capabilities, into the hands of our warfighters.

If we’ve done our job, the space-enabled capabilities we provide will greatly increase the odds America’s sons and daughters will accomplish the mission and come home safely—the space-enabled space capabilities we provide also increases the odds the bad guys, have many, many very bad days.

DSCS Milstar and GBS are providing capability to warfighters right now, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 360 degrees, around the globe.

Milstar has a broader role to play?

Colonel Uhrich
Milstar is supporting strategic EHF terminals in command posts throughout the DoD, in the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center, on U.S Navy ships and submarines and across our ICBM missile fields. In addition, you’ll find deployable Milstar terminals with our special forces. Milstar was on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina with the 4th Infantry Division, the 1st Cavalry Division, the 4th Marine Division, the USS Harry Truman and the USS Iwo Jima, all deployed to the region to assist with recovery operations. Also, during the noncombatant evacuation operations of Lebanon during July 2006, the USS Gonzalez and the USS Barry, both destroyers performing escort missions of transports, used Milstar to coordinate the safe relocation of nearly 800 Americans to nearby Cyprus.

Milstar is the communications system of choice for the warfighters’ highest priority communications. As mentioned earlier, EHF is considered protected comms. What makes protected communications “protected” is that the system is jam resistant, survivable and scintillation resistant (nuclear resistant). The high gain antennas and narrow beams of both Milstar and AEHF provide an additional type of protection known as low probability of intercept/low probability of detection—very useful for certain missions.

Does DSCS have a different mission?

Colonel Uhrich
Yes, DSCS has a different mission and consequently supports a different set of operational requirements. You find DSCS terminals and satellites setting being used for high data rate connections between tactical, forward-based headquarters and their rear or in-garrison headquarters. You see DSCS in use at Teleports locations where DSCS circuits are connected to the terrestrial portion of the Global Information Grid. You’ll find DSCS being used by warfighters at Al Udeid AB in Qatar. This fixed, secure communications hub provided critical reach back for forward deployed forces at the outset of Operations ENDURING and IRAQI FREEDOM. This vital DSCS terminal and connectivity directly supported build-ups for successful fall and winter campaigns and currently supports all CAOC operations in both areas of responsibilities, and is still used today.

GBS is a workhorse. GBS provides worldwide, high capacity, one-way transmission (video, imagery, geospatial intelligence products and other information requiring large amounts of bandwidth) in support of our nation’s joint forces and command centers; whether in garrison, transit, or deployed to global combat zones. For CENTCOM alone, GBS currently transmits about 1.9 terabytes on daily basis.

GBS has over 500 Receive Suites fielded to Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and other government agencies. Receive Suites are located in virtually every COCOMs AOR and, as one example, aided joint warfighters during Operations IRAQI & ENDURING FREEDOM by providing the Combined Air Operations Center near-real-time video and imagery feeds for urgent combat operations.

Special Forces customers were especially pleased GBS was able to receive detailed Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) video, data and imagery broadcasts that directly aided in capture of senior Al-Qaida operatives. As an example, it takes about 7 seconds for a UAV streaming video to move from the UAV, back to CONUS via SATCOM, then to a Satellite Broadcast Manager facility, built into a broadcast, uplinked to the broadcast satellite and sent down to any number of receive suites—7 seconds and anyone who needs the information can see exactly what that UAV saw, no mater where they are located on the globe. GBS is a force multiplier, a force enhancer and a force enabler. GBS clearly improves situational awareness and flexibility in support of joint operations. GBS also helps get key information to lower echelons, since all they need is a 2 transit-case Receive Suite—they don’t need the bulkier SATCOM transmitter, nor due they tie-up addition scarce bandwidth.

Could you tell us some more about WGS, AEHF and TSAT?

Colonel Uhrich
With the launch of WGS in October 07, we are well on our way to completing system check out and the ops testing of this first-of-family wideband satellite. WGS is currently slated to support the PACOM AOR starting in the spring of ’08. WGS will provide an increase in bandwidth, improve the coverage and flexibility of GBS broadcasts as well as providing a new capability to support Ka-band communications.

WGS’ unique digital channelizer not only supports on-orbit crossbanding between X band and Ka, but also adds the efficiency of a one-to-many, or many-to-one, fan out capability, reducing the number of point-to-point circuits. Future launches of WGS are scheduled for July and November 2008.

With the launch of the first of 3 AEHFs starting in November ‘08, we will provide significantly more coverage opportunities with the addition of electronically steerable beams. In addition, AEHF can accommodate many more simultaneous users than Milstar is currently able to accommodate. Finally, AEHF mission planning will be much more flexible, allowing users in the field to borrow/trade versus going back to a headquarters for a re-apportionment approval and retasking.

With TSAT, everything changes. While WGS and AEHF are evolutionary gains in capability and capacity, TSAT is truly transformation. Certainly, TSAT is more of the same in some respects; TSAT will offer a tenfold increase in capacity over AEHF. However, when you consider IP routing in space, the incredible gains as the result of laser communications, the efficiency delivered through dynamic bandwidth allocation (you get the bandwidth you need, when you need it) and T1 (1.544 Mbs) date rates for protected comm-on-the-move users with small diameter antennas, TSAT will change the way we fight, coordinate, collaborate, maneuver—I could go on and on. TSAT will move more data, more protected data, to more users, while on the move. TSAT will be the space segment of the GIG and not merely connect two terrestrial segments.

How are, or, how will, these systems become interoperable with other satellite systems? The investment in legacy systems is enormous and they, obviously, continue to play an extremely critical role…

Colonel Uhrich
Forward and backward compatibly is a key requirement and challenge as we develop and design the MILSATCOM enterprise. WGS needs to be backward compatible with DSCS in order that fielded legacy terminals are able to operate with WGS.

Likewise, AEHF needs to be backward compatible with legacy Milstar terminals. In addition, AEHF needs to be able to crosslink into the legacy Milstar constellation.

AEHF also needs to be forward compatible with TSAT. Our Joint Terminal Engineering Office works with all the services so they understand the interfaces and build terminals to interoperate with the new satellites we’re fielding, as well as continue to work with the legacy satellite systems. The MILSATCOM Systems Wing establishes the protocols, interfaces and standards to guide the development of each Service’s terminals.

For interoperability between satellite systems and within the greater Defense Global Information Grid, DISA established ground stations called Teleports located at various worldwide locations, for Service-provided ground terminals to access MILSATCOM satellites and to provide gateway capability between them. For example, a Marine in the battle zone with a UHF radio can send his message to request a Navy air strike through a UHF satellite to a Teleport that re-transmits it to a Naval carrier strike group over Wideband SATCOM. Newer MILSATCOM systems, such as TSAT, will be IP-based and will interoperate with the global network grid directly.

Another interoperability goal and challenge involves TMOS. TMOS will perform payload and network management of the TSAT constellation. However, we’re designing TSAT to also pick up those responsibilities for AEHF—when we start to operate TSAT, we’ll have one payload and network management system for all of our protected communications

We’ve established processes, such as the MILSATCOM Change Board (MCB), where any change to a system is vetted with representatives from all our programs to understand and analyze any interoperability implications. For instance, if Milstar requires a software upgrade, that change is brought before the board to understand how the change impacts the interoperability requirements of AEHF and consequently, TSAT, as well as the terminal segment. Certainly a complicated process, but one we diligently work to ensure all of our systems work together to support the warfighters’ communications requirements.

Please explain what systems are currently on orbit, which ones are in development, and the progression of augmenting and/or replacing satellites in the current constellation/s?

Colonel Uhrich
I think I’ve addressed most of this earlier, but here are a few additional thoughts…

The DSCS satellite constellation is currently on orbit providing DoD wideband communications. The process of augmenting and replacing the DSCS satellite system began with the October 2007 launch of our first Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite. The first WGS will be ready for on-orbit operations in about April 2008. The second and third are scheduled to launch next year. The fourth, fifth, and sixth will follow within the next six years.

The five MILSTAR satellites were launched between 1994 and 2003. The first three AEHF satellites will be launched between November 2008 and April 2010. AEHF and Milstar will operate as a single, combined system. After the third AEHF launch, there will be eight satellites providing protected, survivable, worldwide communications. As the Milstar satellites reach end of life, we will have TSAT ready to augment and eventually replace the AEHF fleet. TSAT, currently in the Risk Reduction and System Definition phase, is the next generation protected communication system.

Security and redundancy are also big issue elements for any launch or on-orbit system. How secure are these systems? What form of backup is available should any of these systems be compromised or fail?

Colonel Uhrich
MILSATCOM protected systems (Milstar, AEHF and TSAT) provide protection against enemy efforts to disrupt, intercept or exploit messages moving over their networks—without impeding the ability of legitimate users to get the information they need in a timely fashion. The anti-jam characteristics of the transmissions to and from terminals, software and hardware, are so powerful they can withstand almost any level of interference. Plus, the location of the satellites in geosynchronous orbit will place them far beyond the reach of most anti-satellite weapons. Each of the MILSATCOM systems is engineered for robustness and has redundancy designed in—any one component or element failure will not result in a loss of service to the end user.

WGS is based on Boeing commercial-market satellites. That said, WGS added significant security mechanisms and has recently received its information assurance certification. Each satellite and ground element has internal redundancy. This allows the system to continue to provide communications after a discrete failure. If a satellite were to be taken offline, for any reason, we’d have to evaluate the rest of the constellation to see if we can close the gap through repositioning of available satellites or possibly augment military SATCOM with commercial SATCOM capability.

Colonel, your work at SMC deals with all of the MILSATCOM environments. Would you be kind enough to give us a look at your background, how long you’ve been in the military, and how you became involved in these projects?

Colonel Uhrich
I’ve been in the Air Force since November 1985, a little more than 22 years. By background and training, I’m a Communications and Information Officer. I’ve spent my career in the communications career field in the Pentagon, tactical communications with the 3d Combat Communications Group, fixed communications as the Commander of the 100th Communications Squadron, RAF Mildenhall, England, a member of the Air Combat Command communications staff, a 3 year tour on the Joint Staff J6 staff and finally got my first taste of space as the Commander of the 50th Network Operations Group at Schriever AFB, Colorado, in 2004. In this job, I had responsibility for operations and maintenance of the global Air Force Satellite Control Network, as well as base communications for the Schriever AFB.

Following that assignment, I came out to the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Los Angeles AFB, California. This job was a good fit, but a stretch job for me. While at Schriever, the only Air Force base to fly and operate MILSATCOM satellites, I gained a different perspective of MILSATCOM. Throughout my career, I was a user of MILSATCOM. I’ve spent 6 months in Honduras, deployed to Saudi Arabia in the early 90’s, and led communications units supporting air ops in numerous exercises.

At Schriever, I gained insight into the operation and employment side of MILSATCOM satellites and systems, and how MILSATCOM, integrated with other space-enabled warfighting capabilities, provide a huge asymmetric advantage to our fielded forces. While I don’t have a space acquisition background, nor a career of experience in space operations, I’m able to bring into play the user perspective, the operational perspective to the acquisition side of the house.

Lt. General Hamel, the Commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) took a chance by bringing someone to Los Angeles without the “typical” experience and background found in most other system wing leaders. It’s been a tremendously rewarding and challenging experience and one I am most thankful to have. This is exciting, rewarding and meaningful work. It’s easy to get up each morning and make my way to work knowing the things we’re doing here, across the Center, will make a difference on the battlefield, each and every day, for our warfighters around the globe fighting and winning our nations wars.

Colonel, What do you see as the most important issues that need to be addressed for the MILSATCOM environment in 2008?

Colonel Uhrich
Operationalizing WGS will be a significant milestone for MILSATCOM in 2008. The Air Force is introducing the next generation MILSATCOM capability to our users, worldwide. WGS was launched on October 10, 2007 and, once initialized, will provide more wideband communications capacity than the entire legacy constellation. WGS incorporates an additional on-orbit Global Broadcast Service node. This first military Ka payload will dramatically increase the military’s ability to disseminate ISR and help get critical intelligence information into the hands of analysts and military decision makers across the global.

A second important issue will be the successful launch of our first AEHF. We’re on a path to complete development, test, and launch of the first Advanced EHF satellite in November 2008. Once initialized, this (first of three) satellite will dramatically increase the capacity and leverage of survivable protected global communications. It will represent an important first step toward replacing the aging Milstar fleet and provides additional capability for the country’s most vital communication links (Presidential comms, NMCC, nuclear C2, etc). In addition, AEHF will increase the user base of such comm links, providing increased availability of protected communications to tactical users (military customers in theater).

Third, we will continue technology risk reduction activities on TSAT in order to optimally prepare the government and industry team to begin preliminary design on the program’s satellite (space) segment. Getting the TSAT space segment on contract and moving forward to the design and build phase is a key issue for us in 2008.

Forth, we must continue to expand and mature our partnerships with allied nations. This will ensure future coalition operations will have compatible equipment and communications systems to enhance synergy in our joint operations. Recently, the U.S. signed an agreement with Australia. The Australians will purchase a 6th WGS and join the U.S. as a partner in sustaining and using this new capability.

We will continue to grow our relationships with Canada, the United Kingdom, and The Netherlands in developing AEHF. Finally, we hope to continue actively working with the above nations and other allied countries to expand our partnerships in future MILSATCOM endeavors.

Also of importance in the MILSATCOM arena is working through the DoD’s normal requirements and budgeting processes to ensure that our strategy for employing future MILSATCOM systems (space and ground) remains synchronized with the expanding needs of our user community. As you can imagine, each of the Services MILSATCOM terminal offices have their own budgetary and schedule pressures. Keeping those specific terminal programs in sync with the space segment, so that capability is put on orbit in sync with terminal fielding, remains a focus area and a continuous challenge.

Two areas that are not quite as intriguing or exciting as the project itself include milestone determination and project budgeting for each element. How do you manage this critical exercise, especially when private companies may be involved in component delivery, and oversight committees are constantly looking over your shoulder?

Colonel Uhrich
You’re right, budgeting, contractor management and oversight and telling our story to the Air Force, OSD and lawmakers is challenging. However, acquisition processes are relatively mature, understood and for the most part, put into place for good reasons. We’re spending billions of taxpayer dollars each year on MILSATCOM, so it’s really not surprising there is close oversight. In addition, when you look at the history of space acquisition, we have not always lived up to our end of the deal.

The heart of the challenge and the key to success is understanding, at the most fundamental level, what cost and schedule resources are needed to meet warfighter requirements. To improve our track record in this area, we’ve reexamined the way in which we go about the business of space acquisition. We’re more integrated with our contractors so we can identify cost, schedule and performance problems early, while there’s adequate time to recover. We’ve redoubled our efforts to conduct rigorous systems engineering early in the process so we’ve got an executable program and a system we can build and deliver on time and cost. We’ve adopted a block approach so the first couple satellites have a basic capability that we can build upon as we gain experience with new technologies and capabilities. Similar to laying down a few bunts to get some runners on base instead of trying to hit a home run the first time you step up to the plate when facing a new pitcher.

The second thing we’ve done is to fine-tune our oversight processes. These include more frequent and detailed management reviews at the program, Wing and Program Executive Officer (PEO) level. Likewise, DoD has increased their scrutiny and oversight of our activities. If we’re doing the job correctly, we’re happy to operate in a transparent fashion and tell our story to everyone who has a stake in our success.

On the budget side, our system acquisition plans and costs are not developed in a vacuum. MCSW works closely with the GAO, PA&E and the OSD Cost Analysis Improvement Group (CAIG) to rigorously develop consistent assumptions, apply lessons learned, and use appropriate estimating techniques for schedule and cost to formulated program plans. The CAIG also develops a Program Independent Cost Estimate (ICE) for each milestone decision. As per National Security Space 03-01 policy, the top-level policy governing space systems acquisition, these cost and schedule plans are reviewed for sufficiency by an Independent Program Assessment (IPA) team that reports to the Milestone Decision Authority (MDA) before each program milestone decision point.

Colonel Uhrich, it’s been a pleasure talking with you regarding your work with MCSW. We wish you and those who protect our freedoms through satellite technologies much continued success and thank you and your staff members for all of your sacrifices.

Colonel David C. Uhrich is the Vice Commander, Military Satellite Communications Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, and has served in that capacity since September of 2006. He directs acquisition planning, programming, budgeting and operational support for a $46-billion portfolio for military satellite communications systems including the Milstar constellation, the Defense Satellite Communications System, the Wideband Global Satellites Program, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency Program, the Transformational Satellite Communications System Program, the Global Broadcast System Program, the Command and Control System-Consolidated Program, associated Air Force communication terminals and mission control systems.

Colonel Uhrich received his commission as a Distinguished Military Graduate from Auburn University’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program in 1985. His career highlights include squadron command, operations group command, a variety of tactical and fixed communications positions, the Air Combat Command staff and the Joint Staff.

Legion of Merit
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Joint Service Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Combat Readiness Medal
National Defense Service Medal with one device
Southwest Asia Service Medal with one device
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Humanitarian Service Medal
Air and Space Campaign Medal
Kuwait Liberation Medal