GAO Blasts DOD Space Acquisition

A GAO report released May 17 levels sustained criticism at Department of Defense space acquisition efforts. “Many major DOD space programs have experienced significant cost and schedule increases,” the report finds. Costs for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite program grew by 118 percent from original estimates, according to GAO, and its first satellite launch was three and a half years late. The Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) ran into a 300 percent cost overrun and arrived nine years late. The troubled GPS III ground control system (OCX) is currently “five years behind schedule.” And while OCX block 0 is expected to be operational in time to launch the first constellation satellite next year, block 1 will not be ready until 2021, the reports says. That means many of the advanced features built into the GPS III system—like enhanced cybersecurity—will still be more than three years away. GAO blames “overly optimistic cost and schedule estimates” and “problems in overseeing and managing contractors,” among other factors, and recommends allowing time for recent reforms in space acquisition to take effect. But it also offers a number of new suggestions, including the possibility of “creating a new military department for the space domain—a Space Force.” However, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Congress the same day the report was released he was against the idea of a space force, at least right now, saying, “Any move that actually ends up separating space as opposed to integrating space, I would argue is a move in the wrong direction.”