Its three-letter acronym sounds like it might represent a television network, or perhaps a mispronunciation of GPS, the Global Positioning System well known around the world.
Lt. Col. Fred Taylor, 50th Space Communications Squadron commander, contends that even though the Global Broadcast Service may be less renowned, it provides a vital service to joint warfighters downrange who depend on its information to make decisions of utmost importance.
“GBS is another mission system at Schriever with ‘global’ impacts,” Taylor said. “It provides tremendous bang for the buck in terms of bandwidth and capability.”
The 50 SCS has been operating and maintaining GBS since February 2009 and plays multiple roles in its everyday activity, which will increase dramatically during the next few years as the service transitions to a completely new system architecture located here.
So what is GBS?
“It’s a communication broadcast service deployed to meet the ever-growing warfighter demand for large-volume data throughput capabilities for deployed users,” said Maj. Alycia Vrosh, 50 SCS individual mobilization augmentee. “GBS disseminates large data and video products as well as source-encrypted video streams.”
For example, remote piloted aircraft typically fly around pivotal areas taking photos and video. Those RPAs send video data to GBS satellite broadcast managers who then disseminate it to warfighters on the ground or to nearby ships so they can see what the RPA sees, thereby improving their situational awareness.
“Our joint warfighters love the capability,” Taylor said. “Full motion video feeds provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for tactical operations.”
As effective and vital as it has proven to be during the past decade, GBS is an aging system, so much so that the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff have mandated that the Air Force upgrade GBS to a more modern architecture.
“The hardware is getting old,” said Wardell Adams, 50 SCS plans and resources flight chief. “We’re talking end-of-life and sustainability aspects of the system.”
During the next few years, 50 SCS will transition GBS from the legacy architecture now in use to an architecture known as the Defense Enterprise Computing Center. During this process the squadron will also stand up a GBS operations center here as a means of centralizing and streamlining operations, which are currently spread out among SBMs in Hawaii, Virginia and Italy.
Of course, the squadron must also integrate the legacy system into the new DECC architecture.
“The integration will be tough,” Vrosh said. “No doubt about it, a disruption in service can’t happen. We’ll need to integrate everything seamlessly. But, once the GBSOC stands up we’ll be able to perform operations and management tasks with the same or better quality of service than is currently provided by the satellite broadcast managers.”
Following the cutover to DECC, the GBS system architecture will no longer require the existing SBMs to coordinate data. Vrosh explained that sources will directly interface with the DECC for broadcast processing.
Though specific dates and times for the GBSOC stand up have yet to be determined, 50 SCS has already started planning the system integration and transition.
Much still needs to happen before the GBSOC can stand up, including developmental testing, which should begin this August, operational testing by the 17th and 46th Test Squadrons and operational acceptance before 50 SCS can assume the GBSOC reins.
“When the GBS transitions from the legacy architecture to the enterprise architecture with daily operations consolidated at Schriever in the GBSOC, it will culminate nearly five years of planning to include site bed downs, service level agreements, contractural negotiations, developmental and operations testing, life cycle-sustainment planning, communications re-engineering, security accreditations, software development and training for users,” Taylor said. “Part of the 50 SCS’s charter is normalizing GBS operations the way we would any other major weapon system.”
The GBSOC was originally planned to stand up at Schriever during 2010, but was pushed back to 2013 and could occur at an even later date. Timing for the standup depends on funding and remains fluid. Until then, the 50 SCS will continue to manage the service in its current form while it works toward the new DECC architecture.