Inside GNSS Media & Research

MAY-JUN 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 67

26 Inside GNSS M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 8 "Everybody tests a little bit differ- ent," the expert explained, "even though the numbers have to come out the way they're supposed to. Every company has different processes and those processes take time. When you start with some- body new... the efficiencies aren't there because they haven't the lessons learned." Inside GNSS did reach out to the Air Force about potential changes in test- ing and other questions about GPS IIIF going forward, but the service was unable to respond by press time. Stick ing with an incumbent also reduces development risk, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at think tank CSIS. "Whenever you start over with a new satellite, even if it's based on an existing satellite design, you know that you are adapting a new satellite bus — you incur all kinds of risk." ere is also real savings in sticking with the incumbent because the process- es to get things done are simpler. "When you continue the contract in a sustain- ment mentality, you just don't have all these rules and regulations," said the expert. For example, when you do a re- competition "you can't buy the long lead parts; which costs you money. You have to wait until you can buy them until the contract is let," the source said. "ere's about four or five other things that can't be done until aer the decision is made on who the contractor is. Where if you know you're going to have a follow-on contract, within the current contract, you can make provisions to get some of those key components." Just avoiding these kind of delays c a n shave 18 to 36 mont hs of f t he schedule, the source said. Harrison, who is also CSIS's direc- tor of defense budget ana lysis, sug- gested the Air Force discovered it just wasn't worth changing partners. "May be t hey st a r ted look i ng at the track record of space acquisitions where the Air Force has a long history of awarding follow-on contracts to a new company, awarding against the incumbents. And maybe they started to realize that, 'Hey that's not good' — that we can leverage all of the pain and suffering we've been through with the new-design GPS III satellites, we can just keep that going and evolve it and build more of them rather than start- ing over." Moreover, he said, "if you're going to make schedule a high priority, but you don't want to pour lots of money into it, then that favors the incumbent. ey have a hot production line." Outside Pressure There were other factors as well. Like most relationships, the one between Lock heed Martin and the Air Force did not exist in a vacuum and there was certainly pressure from the Air Force"s extended, federal family. The Government Accountabilit y Office has issued a series of reports about cost overruns in the service's space pro- grams citing, as prime examples, the lag- ging and oen over budget GPS space, ground and user equipment develop- ment efforts. The 2016 declaration of a Nunn-McCurdy breach in the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) ground system only flood-lighted the problems for an already unhappy Congress, which is now pushing the Air Force to reorganize its approach to mili- tary space acquisitions. ere has also been peer pressure of a sort. at is the decision to speed up GPS modernization was likely driven, in part, by the change in the threat environment created by Russia and China, which are near-peers in space technology. "In t he recent pa st , t he Un ited States enjoyed unchallenged freedom of action in the space domain," said Stra- tegic Command Commander Gen. John Hyten, in an April 2016 statement on WASHINGTON VIEW In September 2017, the Air Force declared Lockheed Martin's first GPS III satellite "Available for Launch." The satellite is in storage waiting a "call up for launch," expected later this year. Photo Courtesy of Lockheed Martin Gen. John Hyten, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command Photo Courtesy of U.S. Air Force

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

view archives of Inside GNSS Media & Research - MAY-JUN 2018