DOD to Launch Initial Satellites of Four New Series This Year Says GAO

DOD to Launch Initial Satellites of Four New Series This Year Says GAO

After years of struggling with cost growth and schedule slips in most of its satellite acquisition programs, the Department of Defense (DOD) is poised to see the launches of the first satellites in four new spacecraft series in 2010 according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Testifying before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, GAO’s Cristina Chaplain credited DOD for taking the “important step of acknowledging the acquisition problems of the past and … action to address them, including better management of the acquisition process and oversight of its contractors.” Several programs have gotten past “technical and other obstacles and are close to begin delivering capability.” This year, the first satellites in the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF, Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), and Space Based Surveillance Satellite (SBSS) series are expected to be launched. In addition, the first launch for the geostationary component of the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) is scheduled, but GAO was not quite convinced that the December 2010 launch date will be met.

Challenges do remain, GAO stressed, especially in aligning space system components (satellites, ground systems and user terminals), and a crowded launch manifest that could mean longer delays for missions that miss their original launch date. Perhaps most importantly, while congratulating DOD on the progress it has made on reforming its acquisition practices, GAO also said that “Lastly, DOD needs to decide how best to organize, lead, and support space activities. If it does not do so, its commitments to reforms may not be sustainable.”

A webcast of the hearing and the statements of GAO and other witnesses are available on the committee’s website.

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