The voice network has an important job, the General Accounting Office pointed out in a report released last week. It's designed "to enable commanders to discuss whether a ballistic-missile launch threatens North America and, if so, to determine the appropriate retaliatory response." But, like your first cell phone, the system is a bit clunky. The GAO says recent tests show that "the National Command Authorities and the chief military commanders would be unable to communicate by voice in a timely and intelligible manner."
That's grim news, given the $17 billion U.S. taxpayers are spending on the Milstar satellite system. Maybe the Pentagon should consider using Iridium satphones instead. They're only $3,000 each.