Scope of the Spectrum Problem
According to military officials, the need for bandwidth has increased by 633 percent since the war of the first Bush presidency in the early 1990s: Operation Desert Storm. In the interim, many of the UHF frequencies once dedicated for military use were auctioned off to commercial interests in order to reduce the national deficit and to promote the digital cellular industry in the aftermath of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
Although commercial satellite operators are often tapped at wartime to fill the bandwidth gap, there remains some reluctance to fully engage commercial operators because of concern for security, encryption, and interoperability that meet military standards. Additionally, wireless military communications have built-in complicating factors, known in Department of Defense parlance as "stressed environments." Stress is an appropriate descriptor because these negative external effects put pressure on wireless operating systems that don't usually occur during peacetime or in civilian environments. These factors can degrade performance, resulting in bit errors, packet drops, interference from weather, latency, and asymmetrywhich directly or indirectly can contribute to loss of life.
To accommodate stress environments, the Department of Defense, in conjunction with NASA, has development standards for satellite operations. The Space Communications Protocol Standards has borrowed heavily from the dot.com set by incorporating a number of Internet requirements, along with the data transmission standards. The stated goal is "to provide a suite of standard data handling protocols which (from a user viewpoint) make a remote space vehicle appear to be just another 'node on the Internet'."
Casually speaking, in some military circles, the word "space" has been substituted with "stress," but nevertheless SPCS standards are much higher than those of the commercial market. Qualifying new technology for use by the military over this network requires an encyclopedia-sized RFP and documentation. (Note: For more information on SCPS, visit http://www.scps.org/.)