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House, Defense Department Move to Bridge GPS Modernization Funding Gap

U.S. Capitol vertical - Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License- CC-BY-SA 3.0.jpgPhoto by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
August 1, 2012

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Both Congress and the Pentagon are putting money on the table to bridge the gap created by delays in the development of the new GPS ground system.

As Inside GNSS first reported earlier this year the Next Generation Operational Control System, or OCX, is running roughly two years behind schedule. It had been expected to be delivered in 2015, however, General William L. Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, said this spring that OCX would be delayed until 2016 or 2017.

OCX will take over control of the existing constellation and has new capabilities essential to the operation of the upcoming GPS III satellites — the first of which is scheduled to be available for launch by the end of 2014.

To address a potential two-year gap between the launch of OCX and the launch of the first GPS III spacecraft the Air Force let two contracts at the beginning of 2012. The Air Force awarded Raytheon the Launch and Checkout System (LCS) contract, which supports the GPS satellites up to the point of launch. LCS encompasses early identification and mitigation of any GPS III enterprise risks, support for ground checkout and launch operations and resolution of anomalies prior to the first GPS III satellite launch.

About the same time, Lockheed Martin received a contract to provide the Launch and Check Capability (LCC) that will support the actual launches, early orbit operations, and checkout of all GPS III satellites before they are turned over to Air Force Space Command for operation.

The House Appropriations Committee has weighed in in support of the plan, slashing $50 million from the budget for OCX and putting it toward accelerating the LCS/LCC plans.

For Raytheon, which is the contractor on both projects and is already focusing on LCS, the move is a wash financially, according to a source familiar with the issue, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That does not mean, however, that OCX will escape cuts.

In its markup of the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2013 budget for OCX the House Appropriations Committee trimmed $38.3 million, described as being “excess to need,” off the total request of $371.6 million.

Of the cuts $23 million came from the GPS Enterprise Integrator project, a program working to integrate the ground segment with the space segment and with user equipment. The rest came from support for work that, information obtained by Inside GNSS suggests, would have gone to management support provided by one of more of the federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) assisting with the OCX program — presumably The Aerospace Corporation. Other companies doing such work include MITRE Corporation and SEI, otherwise known as the Software Engineering Institute.

The cuts are not final, of course. Senate appropriators are expected to take up the Defense spending bill today (July 31, 2012), and then House and Senate conferees will have to hammer out any differences.

On the authorization side, the House Armed Services committee was considerably more supportive. The committee shaved just $1.5 million from the total OCX request. That cut is likely to stand, however, as the Senate Armed Services Committee cut the same amount, describing it as “excess.”

And there may be far deeper cuts by the end of the year. A source familiar with OCX program funding, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the Air Force would likely decide by this fall on adjustments to the program aimed at bringing down costs by as much as $100 million. The potential changes, developed by Raytheon in response to a request from the military, could alter the final capabilities and schedule of the program.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is seeking bids from firms for a contract to maintain the existing ground system. After months of preparation the Air Force on July 10 released the final request for proposals for the GPS Control Segment (GCS) Sustainment Contract, which would continue maintenance and engineering support for the current GPS ground system including support of the control stations and the Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) software.

The current contract, now held by Boeing, is set to expire. That does not mean Boeing is out. Inside GNSS has confirmed that Boeing, the incumbent contractor, is teaming with Raytheon and the Harris Corp to pursue the opportunity.

Should Boeing win, it could be set for a while. According to the RFP the one-year contract, which commences in 2014, has four option years — potentially stretching it out to the end of 2018.

Copyright © 2012 Gibbons Media & Research LLC, all rights reserved.

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