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Final FY18 Budget Boosts GPS Back-up and Receiver Work

April 6, 2018

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When the wrangling finally ended and the funding bill for fiscal year 2018 was finally signed on March 23, the GPS program found itself with an unexpected plus-up of nearly $90 million to support both a new back-up system and work on military GPS receivers.
 
Overall the program got the $243.4 million requested in fiscal year 2018 for GPS III development and the $85.89 million sought for GPS III procurement. That $243.4 million contains some fine-tuning aimed at assuring position, navigation and timing (PNT) capabilities across the United States. Lawmakers lopped $10 million off as being over what was needed then added $10 million back in to support a demonstration of the technology for a GPS back-up system.
 
Though development on the Next Generation Operational Control System (GPS OCX) continued to be a sore spot for both the House and Senate — and both houses wanted to cut funding for the troubled program — they “compromised” as only members of Congress can, and fully funded OCX to the tune of $510.94 million.
 
The real funding boost went to the development of new military GPS receivers. Congress approved adding $88.5 million in total. (They actually added $98.5 million then snipped off $10 million as being "excessive to need.") That $88.5 million was directed to the Air Force's handheld program — which is Increment 2 of the Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) program. Under the handheld effort the Air Force is responsible for developing a receiver to be carried by both U.S. and allied warfighters.
 
Report Back
The funding for the various elements of the GPS program is not, however, without entanglements. In broad terms, the money's just been approved but the FY18 is half over. The allocations will need to be spent soon and the work done quickly.
 
More specifically Congress is worried about the Air Force's ability to recapitalize its space assets in a cost and time effective manner. Lawmakers therefore ordered the Secretary of the Air Force to report back to House and Senate defense committees by the end of May with an assessment of the recapitalization plans across a number of programs: space situation awareness; weather; missile warning; wideband communications; protected communications and, of course, positioning, navigation, and timing.
 
The Secretary Heather Wilson is to consider the acquisition workforce and future budgetary constraints in her assessment and then certify, "that decisions to recapitalize versus continue production of current designs pose acceptable risks to constellation sustainment."
 
More Homework
And it wasn't just the Air Force that got extra instructions.
 
Lawmakers directed the Coast Guard to spend $500,000 of its $29.0 million budget for research, development testing and evaluation (RTD&E) on conducting digital forensics research and testing on devices meant to jam or otherwise interfere with GPS signals.
 
"The disruptions to Global Positioning System (GPS) signals can cause severe problems for ship navigation, port security, and situational awareness," the bill said. "In recent years, incidents of GPS tampering have disrupted the flow of commerce within ports by blocking the signals needed for crane operators to locate and move goods. When these signals are blocked, the delays associated with the manual location of containers can all but shut down port operations."
 
In an unrelated development, the Army will be spending $25 million less of the $170 million in RTD&E funding dedicated to developing assured PNT technologies. The contract was delayed, so Congress gave the allotment a $25 million haircut.

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