GAO: DOD Did Not Perform Required Assessment Before Cancelling PTSS

GAO: DOD Did Not Perform Required Assessment Before Cancelling PTSS

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) told Congress last week that DOD’s decision to terminate the Precision Tracking Satellite System (PTSS) was not based on an evaluation of alternatives that was required by law.  Nonetheless, Congress seems perfectly happy with the decision to terminate the program based on actions on DOD’s FY2014 funding bills so far.

PTSS is a Missile Defense Agency (MDA) program that would have been comprised of a constellation of nine infrared satellites to track ballistic missiles in the post-boost and mid-course phases of their trajectories.   A March GAO report said that MDA told GAO that the PTSS cost estimate was “not available for publication,” so GAO instead cited a National Academies estimate that the system would cost $18.2 billion – $37 billion in FY2010 dollars depending on the number of satellites in the constellation (9 or 12) operating for 20 years.   Preliminary Design Review was scheduled for September 2013.

In the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law in January 2013, Congress directed DOD’s Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE)  to perform an Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to determine whether the requirements could be met otherwise and also mandated that GAO assess DOD’s evaluation.  

DOD proposed terminating PTSS in its FY2014 budget request, released in April 2013.   In fulfilling its mandate to review DOD’s evaluation, GAO found in a report released on July 25 that DOD had not, in fact, performed an AoA.   DOD told GAO that the decision to terminate PTSS was made in November 2012, before the NDAA became law, and was based on a CAPE review that began in 2011 and was completed in the fall of 2012.  CAPE officials told GAO that the 2012 report did not assess alternatives, but that they had determined that other systems could potentially meet the PTSS requirements.

GAO fulfilled its mandate to review DOD’s action, but Congress clearly is happy with DOD’s decision.  

The House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC’s) report on the FY2014 NDAA (H.R. 1960, H. Rept. 113-102) praises the decision to terminate PTSS and calls it an “opportunity” for DOD to design a follow-on system expected to emerge from ongoing studies by MDA and Strategic Command.  The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) said in its report (S. 1197, S. Rept. 113-44) that it expects DOD to “take advantage of lessons learned from PTSS” in evaluating future options for meeting this need.  HASC and SASC both stressed that DOD does need an improved ability to track and target ballistic missiles.  

Meanwhile, the House-passed FY2014 defense appropriations bill rescinds $123 million in PTSS funding that was approved for FY2013.


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