Congress yanks funding for OCX

May 17, 2016  - By
Image: GPS World

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee withheld the full amount requested by the Pentagon for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 for OCX, the Next-Generation Operational Control System (ground control) for GPS, heretofore deemed necessary to operate the next generation of satellites, GPS III. The Pentagon had asked for $394 million in the upcoming funding cycle, to enable Raytheon to continue work on the program.

If allowed by Congress to continue, OCX may cost as much as $5.3 billion, and there is no certainty that the bill will not rise further.

The Senate committee will not release the $394 million until the Defense Department complies with the requirements of the Nunn-McCurdy Act governing defense programs. Otherwise, Congress could act to terminate OCX.

The terms of the Act now require the Secretary of Defense conduct an in-depth review and then state that the program is essential to the national security, is more important than other programs that will have to be cut to accommodate its cost overruns, and that there are no acceptable alternatives.

From the Defense Department point of view, the new GPS III satellites are essential because of, among other things, their signals’ improved resistance to jamming and cyberattack, an oft-cited peril in the modern global security scenario.

How GPS III could be launched — the first satellite is scheduled for sometime in 2017 — and operated without OCX is not entirely clear, although in February, Lockheed Martin received a $96 million contract to provide contingency control operations for the first GPS III satellites upon launch because OCX won’t be ready.

Raytheon and the U.S. Air Force announced a month ago that OCX “successfully passed the first formal qualification test milestone” needed to check out the system and for the early monitoring of satellites in orbit. That “validates the maturity of the OCX launch and checkout system,” according to a statement by Bill Sullivan, Raytheon’s OCX program director.

Raytheon  won the OCX contract in 2010 with a bid somewhat more than $1.5 billion. The Air Force recently made its FY 2017 budget request for $393 million as part of an overall anticipated program cost of $4.82 billion. However, a Bloomberg news report states that the total cost may have risen to $5.3 billion.

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