State Department looks to satellite communications for emergencies in embassies around the world

SATCOM products could be used in embassies around the world for emergency communication services, as well as day-to-day use in smaller countries.
Kelly Fletcher, CIO of the State Department, delivers a keynote at FedTalks 2023. (FedScoop)

The State Department is focused on building out satellite communications (SATCOM) that would allow it to have affordable and reliable communications via phones and laptops, particularly during emergencies, in U.S. embassies around the world, CIO Kelly Fletcher said Thursday.

The State Department’s 191 embassies around the world often find themselves in the crossfire of a crisis within their host nations. Those emergencies come with many high-risk moving pieces that require constant connectivity to communicate with officials back in the U.S., and the embassies can’t always rely on the local networks of the regions they’re based in, Fletcher said during FedScoop’s FedTalks on Thursday. 

“So my first experience with an emergency was Sudan. I was in D.C., but we had an IT presence in Sudan. And every day I’d wake up and make sure they could still communicate: is your phone working, are the cell towers out, is the internet working in places where the government will turn off the internet?” said Fletcher. 

“But I think in the future what I’m really excited about is affordable, resilient, reliable SATCOM that I can use in emergencies,” she said.


SATCOM also has advantages for embassies in less developed parts of the world that lack connectivity and network infrastructure for State Department communications, Fletcher said.

“But also SATCOM that maybe for smaller embassies can be used as part of daily business. I think it’s going to fundamentally change how we engage with each other and how we think about getting data where it needs to go,” she added.

Satellite communications have seen an explosion of activity in the past year during the Ukraine war, notably with services like Elon Musk’s Starlink platform.

Fletcher highlighted an example of “how cool it is that we can use SATCOM even on some iPhones today” using the SOS button, but she also pointed out the challenge that most government phones are severely outdated and would need to be upgraded before having SATCOM capabilities built in. 

Nihal Krishan

Written by Nihal Krishan

Nihal Krishan is a technology reporter for FedScoop. He came to the publication from The Washington Examiner where he was a Big Tech Reporter, and previously covered the tech industry at Mother Jones and Global Competition Review. In addition to tech policy, he has also covered national politics with a focus on the economy and campaign finance. His work has been published in the Boston Globe, USA TODAY, HuffPost, and the Arizona Republic, and he has appeared on NPR, SiriusXM, and PBS Arizona. Krishan is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School for Journalism. You can reach him at

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