TIGARD, Ore. — In a quiet Tigard office park, a fast-growing military contractor is booming.

“We are in a huge growth mode. We've won multiple contracts,” said PacStar CEO Peggy Miller. 

Peggy Miller, CEO of PacStar
Peggy Miller, CEO of PacStar
KGW

PacStar began 19 years ago in Portland. The company began by reselling IT equipment to military bases overseas.

But when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars heated up, company leaders saw military units needed rugged, reliable communications equipment, and PacStar began making it.

The company recently announced two contracts for their mobile wireless technology, one with the Army and one with the Marines. The total value could be as much as $300 million.

The equipment can be broken down and carried in the pocket of a special forces soldier who only wants secure communication with one other soldier. Its modular units can also be connected with many other parts and used to run a command center.

PacStar said the technology includes two small boxes that create a secure local cell tower and will only talk to phones or laptops with the proper software. It allows military units to go anywhere and create their own wireless networks to communicate with each other over secure systems that have two layers of encryption.

The company buys American parts, including many from the Northwest, and manufactures their equipment in Tigard.

Charlie Kawasaki is the chief technical officer and helped design some of the equipment. He said it’s a revolutionary change from what the military used to have.

“So, a lot of it was just voice. You couldn’t do video. You couldn’t share images, you couldn’t use any of the millions of applications that are available to the regular consumer. Now, all that capability is available to the war fighter,” he said. 

Charlie Kawasaki, chief technical officer of PacStar
Charlie Kawasaki, chief technical officer of PacStar
KGW

What’s next?

“So, we're seeing a lot more interest in small slices of the cloud, loaded on the PacStar equipment so you can bring your data, bring your applications out into the field and make sure they are available, even if your satellite connectivity is not available,” said Kawasaki.