Commercial satellite imagery and data play a pivotal role in national security. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has highlighted how governments utilize commercial satellites to monitor troop movements and the aftermath of attacks.
The commercial space industry is projected to experience substantial growth in the coming years, potentially addressing more of the federal government’s imagery needs. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has compiled information on contracts for the purchase and use of commercial satellite imagery across ten federal civilian departments and agencies.
GAO found that five out of ten federal civilian departments and agencies—Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, and NASA—reported current commercial satellite imagery contracts. The Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury did not report current commercial satellite imagery contracts.
Officials from the five departments and agencies with contracts highlighted specific needs for procuring commercial satellite imagery, including required revisit rates, rapid tasking, resolution, or wavelengths outside of the visible spectrum.
NASA reported the highest spending on current contracts for commercial satellite imagery among federal civilian departments and agencies, with officials reporting a total of $75,657,508 since 2018.
Eight out of ten departments and agencies reported that they use commercial satellite imagery acquired by the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) through their participation in the National System for Geospatial Intelligence or through their access to commercial imagery in NGA’s web-hosted service.
In a separate classified enclosure, GAO also reports on contracts for the purchase and use of commercial satellite imagery by DOD, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Central Intelligence Agency.