GPS OCX still delayed and lawmakers are not happy

August 24, 2023  - By
Ground antenna at Schriever Air Force Base, home of the 50th Space Wing. (Photo: Raytheon)

Ground antenna at Schriever Air Force Base, home of the 50th Space Wing. (Photo: Raytheon)

GPS ground stations that are contracted by Raytheon Technologies to replace the current ground stations are more than seven years behind schedule and lawmakers are not happy, reported Defense One. This delay has caused the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to go over its yearly budget and has sparked discussions as to future budget allocations for the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to continue to control and enhance the GPS constellation.

The USSF has been working to replace the current GPS ground stations with the GPS Next Generation Operational Control Segment (OCX) program since 2016. The operation was first delayed when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.

The additional delay was caused by efforts to replace IBM as the OCX hardware supplier after IBM sold its server product line to the Chinese company, Lenovo. The Pentagon believed the OCX program would be at a high risk for Chinese hacking after the sale to Lenovo, and in response, the contract with Raytheon was modified to replace the hardware with HP in 2020.

All of the delays have come at a cost, as the replacement of ground control stations has increased from $4 billion to $7 billion — a 73% increase over the original estimate — which was reported by a Government Accountability Office report in June.

Lawmakers wrote in the 2024 DOD appropriations bill, “[t]he fiscal year 2024 President’s budget request for the Space Force is $30,197,634,000, an increase of $3,907,806,000 or 15[%] over last year’s enacted level, continuing a trend of double digit growth over the past several years… [h]owever, despite these significant increases, the budget request continues to include serious shortfalls and disconnects.”

The USSF operates 32 GPS satellites, including six of the expected 10 next-generation GPS III satellites. However, some of the new satellites’ capabilities, including increased jamming resistance, can only be used once OCX comes online.

The lawmakers shared their displeasure with the OCX program delay, “[t]his is unacceptable and demands senior leader attention to ensure the program has the appropriate resources to complete OCX development and deliver the capability as soon as possible. The Committee remains concerned by other poor performing programs including Space Command and Control, Family of Advanced Beyond-line-of-site Terminals, Military GPS User Equipment Increment 1, and Enterprise Ground Services.”

About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.