WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is evaluating whether to proceed with its plan to procure a new GPS control station or start afresh, but the company charged with building the system says it is turning the program around.
Bill Sullivan, Raytheon’s program manager for the Operational Control System Segment (OCX) program, said Wednesday that the company has made "excellent progress" on meeting recent milestones, including on cybersecurity elements that have been a longstanding obstacle.
"I think we know and the Air Force knows that OCX is one of the most challenging programs that's developed today, and there were challenges that the program experienced in the past," he said during a conference call with reporters. "We have remediated the issues through corrective actions and we continue to execute to those corrective actions today. Its progress is evidenced through what we've shown here in terms of meeting the schedule this year."
In short, the goal is to "stay on budget by staying on schedule," he said.
The Defense Department on June 30 declared a Nunn-McCurdy breach after finding that OCX costs had ballooned by more than 25 percent. Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall is leading a review of the program and in October will determine whether to re-baseline the program and continue on with Raytheon as the prime contractor, to re-compete it, or cancel it altogether.
The goal of the OCX program was to design a GPS control station with improved accuracy and availability, greater automation, and a more resilient cyber backbone. But during a July interview, Winston Beauchamp, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space, said the constantly changing cyber environment made it difficult for Raytheon to design a system that met security requirements.
Sullivan said that issues associated with implementing and verifying cyber requirements have largely been resolved, noting Raytheon's recent progress during testing.
For instance, the company is in the middle of factory-qualification testing for OCX Block 0, an early version that runs the system's launch and checkout system.
While full capability won't come online until Block 1 is delivered to Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, in 2020, 77 percent of all cyber requirements have been implemented in Block 0, which is set to deliver in the second quarter of 2017, Sullivan noted.
"There isn't really any new ground to be plowed with Block 1," he said. "So we are highly confident that we have a good hand on the IA [information assurance] system at this point."
In addition to work on Block 0, the company is making headway on the two final iterations of the Block 1 software, called 1.6 and 1.7. Raytheon started coding 1.6 in March and plans to begin 1.7 in 2017, he said. Each of the iterations is broken into five smaller increments, and the second increment of 1.6 is slated to wrap up this week and move to integration.
"We're ticking off the milestones per plan, and that will control the cost of the program going forward," Sullivan said. "I have full confidence that we'll continue to do that as we proceed with not only delivering Block 0, but continuing on a path for Block 1."
The big question is whether Raytheon will have the chance to proceed with the program after the Pentagon decides its path forward this fall. Both DoD and Air Force officials have acknowledged that all potential options have drawbacks.
"It would be difficult, it would be challenging" to restart the program, Beauchamp said in July. "But it would be challenging in either case."
Kendall told reporters in July that Raytheon had shown some improvement, but that the company needed to resolve outstanding problems.
"It's a critical system. It would be very disruptive to stop where we are and start over," he said. "That's not a preferred alternative. But on the other hand I need to see adequate progress or we'll have to consider that sort of alternative."