EELV Not a Good Example of DOD Adopting Commercial Practices

EELV Not a Good Example of DOD Adopting Commercial Practices

As NASA considers increasing reliance on the commercial launch sector, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently found that in at least one case, it did not work out so well for the Department of Defense (DOD).

In a briefing to the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on how DOD’s space acquisition could benefit from adopting commercial practices, GAO cited the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program as one area where it did not work. “Commercial demand did not materialize” and “The government had to bear most of the cost burden and total program costs nearly doubled (increased by about 96 percent) from first to latest cost baseline.”

Wideband global satellite communications was another failed attempt. Once again the commercial demand did not materialize and “initial operational capability took twice as long as planned due largely to manufacturing problems.”

More generally, GAO noted that there often are distinct requirements differences between DOD and the commercial sector, and commercial companies prefer to use only mature technologies while DOD often must develop the technologies it needs. However, GAO found that DOD could benefit from adopting some commercial practices to improve cost, schedule and performance outcomes: “… there is a clear need to adopt practices that emphasize attaining knowledge up front, minimize requirements changes late in programs, and provide the right support and accountability for both program managers and contractors.”

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