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Col. Bernie Gruber: Farewell Perspective on GPS Program

June 11, 2013  - By
Image: GPS World

This week’s Defense PNT newsletter by GPS World contributing editor Don Jewell carries an exit interview with Col. Bernard “Bernie” Gruber, who is leaving his post as director of the GPS Directorate after more than three and a half years in that position, and concluding his 26-year U.S. Air Force career. Look for the full interview later this week on the Defense PNT newsletter page. To receive subsequent issues of this monthly e-publication subscribe free here.

Here is an advance look at the extensive interview with a few selected quotes from Col. Gruber:

“We are working very hard to reduce our costs and invest in different opportunities that have a return on investment like dual launch [of GPS III] and NavSat, or I think it is NibbleSat, as you and Dr. Parkinson referred to it in your article from the National Space Symposium, which we look at  as an augmentation to GPS III. That is a good thing because it can significantly reduce total lifecycle costs of the program. So we continue to look at these, amongst other items, that we will prioritize and spend our development dollars on — items such as Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries, smart solar arrays, that allow you to have more efficient use of power, more efficient power amplifiers, that are significantly shrunk down in size from what we have today. Bottom line is we will continue to work on processes that clearly show a positive value stream.”

[ . . . . . ]

“General Sheridan, as you very well know, the prior SMC Commander, had actually given me six goals when I got here. The first of those was fix the gap between OCX and GPS III. If you recall, we had about a 15-month gap in the delivery of those items. The second one was he asked me to transfer the AEP and LADO (launch, early orbit, anomaly and disposal operations) ground segment to our users [the 50th Space Wing] and get that capability to them as soon as we could, so that they could operate it and own it. The third one was fix the IIF production line. The fourth one was to get the MGUE, or military GPS user equipment, back on track and award contracts. The fifth one was build a relationship and continue that relationship with the 50th Space Wing. The last one that he actually gave me was to ready the first space vehicle for GPS III through the GNST, which of course is the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Test Bed and an engineering, manufacturing and development pathfinder for the GPS III program, used to achieve modernization. And, Don, I am happy to say that we as a team have achieved every one of those goals.”

[ . . . . . ]

“I sincerely hope that the GPS III program will be a benchmark for future space acquisition programs, both in terms of the high standards that were set for mission assurance, and the level of communication between our program office and the contractor. The GPS III program is entering the very early stages of testing right now on the first flight vehicle, and I anticipate that we will begin to see the program move down that learning curve in very short order. You know with the 15-year design life, which we put in the contract, along with stringent parts requirements and our priority on systems engineering, I really do expect that the GPS III satellites will operate beyond the standards set by the current constellation. And I do have to say that what we call our “back to basics” approach, that other folks have written about, which includes those attributes of strong systems engineering discipline, detailed manufacturing systems readiness reviews, and strict adherence to standards, are actually now showing tangible and documented results. In some cases a 60-percent reduction in our cycle time and a 70-percent reduction in discrepancies for the next delivered items. I think that is huge.”

About the Author:

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.

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