Home >> January 2009 Edition >> INCOMING: A Conversation With Americom Government Services
INCOMING: A Conversation With Americom Government Services
with Robert Demers, Howard Stevens, and Brian Watson

AGS was formed on November 9, 2001 as an independent corporation, and a wholly owned subsidiary of SES AMERICOM. The Company offers satellite bandwidth and custom satcom network solutions to U.S. government agencies, including Defense, Civilian, State, Department of Homeland Security and Intelligence, as well as to commercial contractors who support government contracts.

Prior to the formation of AGS, AMERICOM had continuously served the U.S. government satcom market since 1973, through custom network services and transponder leases. Today, AGS is the sole operating company within the SES family focused on meeting the satcom needs of the U.S. government. A mini round table discussion was conducted regarding this topic and the participants included:
  • Robert Demers, Senior Vice President, AMERICOM Government Services
  • Howard Stevens, Sales Director
  • Brian Watson, Sales Director

What is AMERICOM Government Services doing to support current UAV intelligence missions? Has the demand for these missions increased or decreased in recent years? What do you anticipate the demand curve will create in the next several years?

Howard Stevens and Brian Watson
We are currently providing capacity to support the Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk training, research and development missions over the continental United States. In preparing the pilots to operate these vehicles, we supply the satellite bandwidth necessary to operate communications and surveillance systems onboard the aircraft.

Through our DSTS-G contract with both Arrowhead and DRS to support these missions, we’ve seen a rapid increase in demand for our satellite capacity for these activities. The initial requirement has doubled in size over the past two years and has increased by more than 50 percent over the past two months alone.

Because of the number of troop constraints and the increasing effort to better use technology to do more for them, and to keep them out of harms way, it is very likely we will see the number of Predators, Reapers and Global Hawks quadruple over the next four years. With that steady increase is the requirement for the capacity to conduct even more training, research and development.

With explosive growth in the use of UAV’s in combat, and the corresponding need to connect the user with the vast amount of data collected by those UAV’s, what is SES doing to prepare for this satellite communications demand?

Robert Demers
SES is routinely launching three to four broadband satellites per year operating in the C- and Ku-bands to areas of the world where we project the greatest need. Typically that demand is driven by our commercial customers, but increasingly, we are adding capacity in areas of the world where there is a history of military demand, as well. Further, given the abundance of our satellite capacity, and with extra fuel on board many of our satellites, it is possible to drift capacity to where it is needed. As the demand for AISR service grows, we anticipate doing more of this in the future.

Transformational Satellite (TSAT) is a huge DoD satcom acquisition program. Recently, DoD decided to delay a contract award decision on TSAT until at least late in 2010. Many now argue that TSAT will never happen. Were that to be the case, what could SES offer that would rival the vast capacity planned for TSAT?

Robert Demers
With 40 broadband satellites currently on orbit, as well as several new satellites going up each year, SES is already in a position to offer vast and affordable capacity almost anywhere on the globe.

Working with DoD, it would be very doable for SES to build satellites at a greater rate, and even add features like anti-jam and intersatellite links (ISL’s) to newly designed spacecraft. Further, it is possible, even being contemplated, to incorporate the very high capacity spectrum in the Ka-band, which is adjacent to the military’s EHF, and where it would be possible to expand the family of DoD ground terminal for use in both bands.

DoD requirements are often strict and unwieldy... do you have any thoughts as to how the milsatcom industry can address these issues, all the while ensuring products that meet those specs?

Robert Demers
DoD and the satellite operators need to have an unfiltered discussion on requirements for capacity planning and capabilities (e.g., protection, information assurance, encryption, payload hosting etc.) and about the level of risk and investment the operators are willing to take to meet DoD requirements;

The commercial satellite industry provides a gamut of services to include bandwidth in land, sea and air operations. Increasingly, that bandwidth is required to be portable and mobile, and is often sought as part of a larger network. What we are seeing more of now is the fact that satellite operators are being asked to provide total solutions through combining bandwidth, terminals, teleports, back haul, etc. As requirements and defense programs continue to expand, and the defense budget continues to be stressed, the commercial satellite industry can offer existing government programs timely and affordable access to space through customized payloads, hosting of payloads, and the potential for smaller satellites with specific capabilities.