WASHINGTON — The Pentagon recently conducted a "deep dive" review of the Air Force's troubled ground control system for its next-generation GPS satellites, and will allow the program to move forward — for now.

Officials declined to give specifics details about the Tuesday March 8 meeting, during which the Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall reportedly met with top Raytheon officials to discuss the future of the long-delayed program. The meeting comes just months after the Pentagon announced it would delay initial operations of OCX by two years, to July 2021.

Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the Air Force's deputy assistant secretary for acquisition, acknowledged the review occurred, and said it "went well." But he emphasized that cancellation is still on the table if Raytheon does not meet established milestones for the program.

"There’s still a clear message that we need to see progress, we need to see forward movement on the program, we need to see that they are executing and meeting the milestones that we’ve established or we will have to stop the program if we need to," Bunch said Thursday March 10 during the Credit Suisse/McAleese FY2017 Defense Programs Conference.

"We don't want to do that, it's a critical capability, but that is still an avenue that's out there that we will have to go to if we don't see progress."

The Pentagon can't afford any further delays to OCX. The most recent two-year shift creates a capability gap starting in 2019, when the Air Force needs to begin replacing its aging GPS Block II satellites with modernized GPS IIIs, because the current ground control system cannot accommodate the new technology.

The Pentagon has received a "baseline integrated master schedule" that lays out Raytheon's step-by-step plan for the program over the next few years, including the two-year extension, Bunch said. A new service cost position is still under review, he said. OCX has not incurred a so-called "Nunn McCurdy" cost breach, Air Force spokesman Maj. Rob Leese confirmed after Bunch's remarks.

The department will conduct another comprehensive review of OCX in about three months, said a Pentagon spokesman.

"We completed a careful look at the current state of the OCX program. We will conduct another comprehensive review in approximately three months to assess progress against the plan," the spokesman said Wednesday.March 9.  "Additional information will be provided as it becomes available for release."

Email: lseligman@defensenews.com

Twitter: @laraseligman

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