Title: GCHQ COMSAT Report

Release Date: 2015-08-03

Document Date: 2010-07-02

Description: This page taken from a longer 2 July 2010 GCHQ report on the state of its COMSAT capabilities (against communications satellites) confirms that “NSA has historically been a large source of funding” for this aspect of the agency’s activies: see the Intercept article GCHQ and Me: My Life Unmasking British Eavesdroppers, 3 August 2015. Download […]

Document: SECRET

2 July 2010


5. GCHQ currently owns three sites that are involved in COMSAT access: CARBOY,
SOUNDER and SNICK. These three sites have a wide variety of different ages and types
of deployed antennas, at various stages of their operational lifetime. This large installed
asset base represents a considerable past investment and requires a continuing
investment in maintenance and support.

6. New assets have generally been added without decommissioning older ones, increasing
maintenance and support costs. In the current economic climate, this must be set against
reduced future support budgets. One of the key drivers for this strategy work is to reduce
the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the asset base, whilst at the same time supporting
expansion of collection ability.

7. Current projects, such as Torus, which provide new capabilities and may reduce support
costs, must be taken into account by the strategy.

8. Historically, NSA has been a large source of funding for COMSAT. Many current
COMSAT assets were purchased by NSA and are supported by GCHQ under the
Echelon Agreement. It is therefore essential that NSA agree that the approach taken by
the Antenna Strategy is correct. In addition, there is an NSA initiative to ‘Access It All’, the
details of which are currently under discussion.

9. Another factor that must be taken into account is changing technology within the
commercial COMSAT world. An example is the utilisation of new frequency bands.

10. Many large COMSAT procurement projects were initiated in the past primarily because
money had become available for use rather than because they were strategically
planned. They also often focused on buying the newest technology, rather than the
technology that would give the best value for money to the business. There is a clear
need to direct funding so that it is used in a way that provides the most cost effective long
term contribution.

II. The SHAREDVISION Programme (SV), a 5-EYES COMSAT architecture modernisation
programme, has recently come to an end. It included many aspects of COMSAT
infrastructure, but did not deal with antennas specifically. Its follow-on, SHAREDQUEST,
is currently being defined, along with CONVERSION QUEST - a part of SHAREDQUEST
relating to antenna command and control. These programmes reflect the importance of
COMSAT as an access with global reach and the ability to provide unique intelligence.

12. The aim of this COMSAT Antenna Strategy is to provide direction for front-end collection
that is consistent with the Access Strategy (Ref [c]). It should reduce the TCO of the
COMSAT antenna asset base, whilst providing the capability to support more missions
and counter the emergence of new technologies. The strategy should also underpin the
business cases that justify long-term resourcing and budget planning for associated
product centres and support services.

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This information is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and may be subject to exemption under other UK
information legislation. Refer disclosure requests to GCHQ on



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