Defense Department leaders are reviewing internal procedures for lease agreements with Chinese satellite service providers following the recent discovery that the United States has been leasing satellite services from a Chinese company.
Doug Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, testified at an April 25 hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee that when he assumed his duties a month ago, he learned of DOD leases with a Chinese satellite service provider that were issued early last year following a joint urgent operational needs statement in support of "warfighter needs."
"The warfighter needed [satellite communication] support in his area of operations. He went to the Defense Information Systems Agency to request that support," Loverro said.
Loverro said DISA responded to the request by reaching out to its pool of providers. Only one of those providers, a company based in China, had the bandwidth available to meet the communications needs.
Based on his review of the leases, Loverro said, the agency followed all of the current procedures and operational commanders were aware of the safety and business concerns connected with such an agreement. Those commanders, he said, are equipped with the necessary encryption to protect the information being relayed.
"From that perspective, I'm very pleased with what we did," Loverro said. "And yet the larger issue is we won't have a clear policy laid out on how we assess whether or not we want to do this as a department."
Based on this lack of procedural guidance, Loverro said, DISA and the Joint Staff decided earlier this month to begin working to develop a process by which to assure that a decision like this is vetted across DOD.
"We recognize that there is concern across the community on the usage of Chinese satellites to support our warfighter and, as I expressed, we also recognize that our warfighter needs support and sometimes we must go to the only place that we can get it from," Loverro said. -- Courtney Albon