In this era of restrained federal spending, agencies are under increasing pressure to conform to lowest price technically acceptable (LPTA) policies for purchases. Under LPTA, decision-makers select vendors who offer a technically acceptable proposal at the lowest evaluated price. Hardly immune to such pressures, the Department of Defense has moved in this direction.
We feel that LPTA has its place, even in the military community, especially when assessing vendors who operate within a commoditized environment.
Take flak jackets, for example. It is relatively easy for DoD contract managers to set “hard” requirements for the flak jackets and then allow vendors to compete by offering the best price or bulk purchase/lot discounts. For these and other assembly-line type products, LPTA fulfills mission-supporting objectives without giving servicemen and women anything less than they deserve – at the very best price available.
Satellite communications (SATCOM), however, is far from an assembly-line product.
It does not fit a commoditized, “one size fits all” description. Every procurement presents an array of choices. These may include security requirements (such as encryption differentiators), geographic requirements and functionality such as video distribution, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) demands, as well as additional capability-focused considerations.
In other words, use the right tool for the right job. If agencies applied LPTA in its purest form to SATCOM acquisition, they would buy the equivalent of a pocket-sized pickaxe to tear down a wall when they really need a big, sturdy mattock. It is true that the pickaxe will (eventually) do the job. But you will gain superior efficiencies, performance delivery – i.e., value creation – through the better tool.
When human lives and critical missions are on the line, it is difficult to justify an LPTA approach to SATCOM acquisition, especially when satellite systems offer so much. Ku-band is prolific, establishing infrastructure as a commodity. Ka-band provides outstanding throughput, resiliency and steer-ability. L-band brings the penetration required for high availability. Agencies should opt for a blend today, not a blunt, one-size-fits-all “formula.”
To respond to this, Inmarsat is leading the charge for “SATCOM as a service,” to pave the way for agencies to integrate complex solutions within an end-to-end managed services architecture. Through SATCOM as a service, DoD and private industry work as partners to foster greater innovation, all in the interest of giving soldiers the right tools for the job.
Through an integrated blend, the military community takes advantage of SATCOM systems that enable full functionality at a US-based terminal one day, and then the same level of capability when a unit mobilizes to Africa, or anywhere else in the world 24 hours later. Whether the mission supports combat, humanitarian or peacekeeping objectives, users rely upon highly secure, portable access with optimal resiliency and flexibility, along with maximum bandwidth for voice/video/data information exchange.
These requirements can be satisfied while still empowering users with the most flexible and current communications. A higher quality of services and technologies must continue to support modern-era SATCOM. This standard is simply not achievable under LPTA. We need to aim higher when military missions – and lives – are at stake.