Inside GNSS: Engineering Solutions from the Global Navigation Satellite System Community
GPS Galileo Glonass BeiDou Regional/Augmentation
Inside Unmanned Systems
Thought Leadership Series
USAF Secretary Deborah James.jpg
U.S. Air Force Deborah Lee James. U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish

GAO Report, Senate Subcommittee Hearing Confront USAF on GPS III Programs

May 18, 2015

Share via: SlashdotSlashdot   TechnoratiTechnorati   GAO Report, Senate Subcommittee Hearing Confront USAF on GPS III Programs (Inside GNSS)TwitterTwitter   FacebookFacebook

GPS III satellites and their new ground system, both years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget, still may not be on track despite corrective actions, Air Force Secretary Deborah L. James told a U.S. Senate hearing recently.

Both the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) and the GPS III satellites have run into significant development problems. The spacecraft program, which will add a fourth civil signal to the constellation and incorporate better anti-jam capability, is 28 months behind schedule and some $700 million over budget, said Cristina Chaplain, director for Acquisition and Sourcing Management at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in her written testimony.

The program is now rebaselining its cost estimates as a result of the schedule delay and associated increased cost “chiefly due to technical and manufacturing problems,” according to the GAO. Lockheed subsequently announced that integration of the first GPS III spacecraft has taken place.

The ground system is also behind by some four years, Chaplain told an April 29 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. The contract cost has more than doubled initial estimates, she said in her written testimony, jumping from $886 million in February 2010 to $1.98 billion. The total program cost has soared from $3.5 billion to 4.1 billion.

The ground system development was delayed by “an array of issues including a struggle to incorporate information assurance requirements.” System engineering shortcomings and management and oversight issues added to the problem, Chaplain explained.

“How confident are you that the Air Force has the programs under control?” Arizona Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the full Senate Armed Services Committee, asked Chaplain.

“I believe the satellite production itself is on a better path,” said Chaplain. “What we are highly worried about is the ground system. That's been seeing a lot of development problems across the board, and a lot of them have to do with having to meet tougher information assurance requirements, but there's some that have to do with management and oversight and contractor capabilities that we’re worried about.”

Because of the ground system delays the DoD plans to launch GPS III satellites to replenish the constellation before the ground system is ready, she explained, adding that the Air Force may need to find a “workaround solution” for using the satellites.

“We understand the Air Force is put a lot of corrective actions in place, but given that we’re very far behind on that program we don't have confidence yet in the way forward. We're still looking at the program and should be reporting on it more formally in the summer,” she added.

Chaplain told Sen. John McCain in response to a question about risks that the Air Force believed it had solved the technical and manufacturing issues with the navigation payload unit, that is the mission data unit or MDU.

“There is still risk ahead,” she said, “because again, that satellite’s in testing and other satellites are being manufactured. So, if some issues come up during testing you’re going to have to go back and work the satellites that are in production.”

“Madam Secretary,” McCain asked James, “do you disagree with the GAO assessment? And, if indeed there's a $471 million, 11 percent overrun, who is being held responsible for that?”

“I would only amend one item that Ms. Chaplain said,” replied James. “I believe you said the Air Force is confident we’re on track, or words to that effect. I don't want to express that confidence because I'm not sure we’re on track yet. There’s an important test that’s going to be taking place between June and September.”

A Global Positioning Systems Directorate spokesperson told Inside GNSS in early April that the spacecraft thermal vacuum environmental test with GPS III flight hardware was scheduled to occur during that period. This comprehensive environmental test includes the integrated bus and payload, including the delayed MDU.

“Is anybody going to be held responsible?” asked McCain, pushing for a response about the delays and extra costs. “Getting fired?”

“There's been about $160 million in fees that the contractor has lost as a result, so far, of this,” said James “and we are assessing other individuals to see if there's other levels of accountability.”

Copyright © 2015 Gibbons Media & Research LLC, all rights reserved.

Jammer Dectector
globe Copyright © Inside GNSS Media & Research LLC. All rights reserved.
157 Broad Street, Suite 318 | Red Bank, New Jersey USA 07701
Telephone (732) 741-1964

Problems viewing this page? Contact our webmaster.