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GAO: Better coordination needed for GPS M-code adoption

December 12, 2017  - By

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) assign responsibility to an organization to collect test data, lessons learned and design solutions in its effort to meet GPS modernization goals.

According to the GAO, “The Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, as part of M-code receiver card acquisition planning, assign an organization with responsibility for systematically collecting integration test data, lessons learned, and design solutions and making them available to all programs expected to integrate M-code receiver cards.”

DOD concurred with the recommendation.

The GAO presented its findings in a 53-page report issued Dec. 12, “Global Positioning System: Better Planning and Coordination Needed to Improve Prospects for Fielding Modernized Capability.”

According to the GAO, “DOD has made some progress on initial testing of the receiver cards needed to utilize the M-code signal. However, additional development is necessary to make M-code work with over 700 weapon systems that require it.

“DOD has begun initial planning for some weapon systems, but more remains to be done to understand the cost and schedule needed to transition to M-code receivers.

“The preliminary estimate for integrating and testing a fraction of the weapon systems that need the receiver cards is over $2.5 billion through fiscal year 2021 with only 28 fully and 72 partially funded (see below figure). The cost will increase by billions when as yet unfunded weapon systems are included.”

Status of weapon systems that have determined the cost needed to transition to M-code receivers through Fiscal Year 2021, as of February 2017.

In its summary, the GAO wrote “DOD faces risks as it simultaneously develops satellites, a ground system to operate them, and receiver cards that allow use of GPS signals. It will need to install receiver cards on hundreds of systems and, without better coordination, risks paying repeatedly to solve similar problems across the systems.”

The report also assesses the extent to which DOD faces acquisition challenges in sustaining the GPS constellation and developing a new ground control system. The GAO analyzed GPS quarterly acquisition reports and data, acquisition strategies, software and test plans, and other documents, and interviewed DOD and contractor officials.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.