Scott Scheimreif oversees Iridium‘s government programs in his executive vice president role at the McLean, Va.-based communications services contractor.
He also manages the company’s work under a five-year, $400 million contract awarded to Iridium in October 2013 for airtime services to the Defense Department through the Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services program with the Defense Information Systems Agency.
Scheimreif recently spoke to ExecutiveBiz to offer an update on what his team has focused on beyond just the EMSS contract, satellite technology trends the U.S. government is increasingly looking at and Iridium’s research-and-development partnerships with public and private sector organizations.
ExecutiveBiz: What are two main areas you have focused on over the last year?
Scott Scheimreif: Optimizing the EMSS contract to enable greater subscriber options, enhanced services and an overall increase in capability across the warfighter community has been a major focus for my team. As a result, network adoption is at record highs and use of the Iridium satellite network by DoD has remained strong while other service providers in the mobile satellite services industry have faced declines due to operations tempo and budget constraints.
In addition to delivering on the terms of the EMSS contract through our legacy services, we are also engaged with the U.S. government and DoD to better understand new and emerging requirements for critical communications. This includes leveraging our current satellite constellation, referred to as Block 1, while exploring how our next-generation satellite network, known as Iridium NEXT, can also be used to meet the emerging warfighter needs.
Iridium NEXT will deliver faster data speeds and greater bandwidth, and provide more affordable solutions to the government. We are working with DISA and our industry partners to provide a Follow-On Secure Handset for warfighters to communicate securely through an NSA-accredited capability over our network using the Iridium Extreme handset.
Apart from the FOSH, we are also working closely with the DoD to deploy a global netted capability through ongoing enhancements to the Distributed Tactical Communications System also known as DTCS. This will allow warfighters to communicate via both voice and data to dynamic talkgroups over a low-latency, push-to-talk network across a theater the size of Pacific Command or in remote areas like the Arctic region.
Lastly, along with our partners, we are able to offer a cost-effective solution to provide position location information specifically for the dismounted warfighter called a soldier-worn EMSS Personal Locator Beacon. This commercial off-the-shelf solution was demonstrated during the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 at White Sands in May 2014.
Based on the operational security provided through the government’s dedicated Iridium gateway, combined with the current airtime contract awarded in October 2013, now the Army and the Marine Corps can have complete situational awareness of every soldier and marine on the battlefield without incurring any additional service costs. The technology and the networks exist today and DoD has already paid for it.
ExecutiveBiz: Within that time, which market trends have triggered most of Iridium’s agenda for the government market?
Scott Scheimreif: An emerging problem space for DoD that we have been monitoring closely is the continued reliance on GPS technology, along with the emergence of disruptive technology that can spoof or jam the GPS signal. This concern includes the reliance on a GPS signal when operating indoors or in other areas where the GPS signal is attenuated.
Maintaining some level of assurance of position, navigation and time is key for DoD to sustain efficient, successful and safe operations. DoD is exploring a variety of options primarily led by the Army. Given the unique cross-linked architecture of our constellation, there are approaches in which our network can be leveraged to help mitigate some of these risks.
Over the past few years we have been working closely with one of our strategic partners, Satelles, and together we’ve made modifications to our network to deliver time and location signals from our satellites globally and on demand. The Iridium high power signal operates in buildings and other areas where GPS signals cannot be received. This service, called Satelles Timing and Location or STL, is expected to be operational in the 2016 timeframe.
In the meantime, we will continue to focus on how our unique network can assist DoD in their pursuit of assured position, navigation and timing technologies.
We are also exploring ways the Iridium network can provide advancements in cybersecurity and data protection, to help eliminate and mitigate some of the capability risks and gaps that exist today in this emerging problem space. In addition, the need for increased data dissemination using higher bandwidth is a persistent challenge within the DoD. We are responding to this through two major upcoming milestones.
First is the launch of Iridium NEXT, which will enable innovation in technology and ultimately deliver more products and services to our customers, including DoD in the very near future.
Coupled with Iridium NEXT is the launch of Iridium CertusSM, our next-generation broadband service. “Certus” means “certain and sure” in Latin, and this versatile, enterprise-grade, reliable broadband service will open up many doors for product development in the government/military, maritime, aviation and land mobile markets.
ExecutiveBiz: What areas of mobile and satellite communication are you seeing increasing activity or interest in?
Scott Scheimreif: Through our EMSS contract with DISA, we have seen a surge in demand and increased interest in Iridium’s services supporting various data or machine-to-machine applications like vehicle telematics, fleet and asset tracking and position and location information to provide situational awareness across the battlefield.
Additionally, providing basic command and control operations and effectively tracking dismounted warfighters are both areas with increased activity and demand, specifically within the Army and the Marine Corps.
Regarding M2M technology, in telematics or condition-based maintenance, we see increased reliance on satellite-based systems to provide enhanced situational awareness capabilities–increasing visibility of what is taking place among various areas of operational logistics, such as vehicles, rotary wing aircraft and other platforms.
We also see increased activity right now for en-route communications, enabling mission updates, changes in weather information, etc., while forces are en-route to an operation. We plan to leverage satellite communications and the launch of Iridium Certus to provide a cost-effective and viable solution to meet these demands.
Lastly, with growing commercial activity in the Polar Regions, the need for satellite communications to support safety services and provide remote communications and data exfiltration for sensor applications is expanding. We are responding to this increased interest and demand by leveraging our unique constellation,which is the only commercial satellite network providing coverage in that region of the world.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see industry’s role in helping DoD address growing demand for spectrum evolving?
Scott Scheimreif: The industry plays a role in establishing the need for reliable and global communications and showcasing how advancements and innovation in this field can increase logistical efficiencies and improve safety for the warfighter. By offering commercial alternatives to government supported communications, Iridium is providing DoD and the U.S. government with greater flexibility and alternatives for meeting this growing demand.
ExecutiveBiz: What other areas do you see potential opportunity for more public-private collaborations?
Scott Scheimreif: I see a lot of opportunity for collaboration that would benefit both the government and the overall industry. Cooperative research and development agreements in particular help facilitate collaboration across public and private sectors.
By leveraging these agreements and brokering relationships between the public and private sectors, a dialogue is established and information is shared, educating each about future needs, capabilities and technology. This kind of environment allows for improved insight into product and service roadmaps, which promotes collaboration and brings the needs of the end-user to the forefront of the conversation.
Likewise, it also helps industry understand some of the current and future challenges various government agencies are facing. It can lead to potential R&D investments by industry to ensure they focus on the relevant problems and challenges.
We work very closely with all of our industry partners, including our value-added manufacturers and resellers. By establishing an open and collaborative environment under the EMSS program and other government forums, we have found that industry is motivated to understand end-user needs and incentivized to further invest in product development and innovation, bringing new technologies and capabilities to the warfighter quicker.