LONDON — The Pentagon's top acquisition official sees some progress on Raytheon's GPS control station but says the program remains in trouble.
Speaking in London ahead of the Farnborough International Airshow, Frank Kendall, US undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said he had not yet decided if the Operational Control Segment (OCX) program needs to be recompeted or if Raytheon can fix a series of technical and scheduling issues that have sidetracked the program.
On June 30, the Pentagon declared a Nunn-McCurdy breach for OCX after concluding Raytheon would exceed 25 percent costs on the program. As a result, the program is now under review by Kendall, who has until October to decide to continue with the program or cancel it outright.
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Last December, as department officials began publicly raising concerns about the status of OCX, the Pentagon and Raytheon agreed to hold quarterly updates on the program in order to avoid further problems. Kendall and US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James conducted the most recent review July 7 at Raytheon's campus in Aurora, Colorado, according to an Air Force statement.
The review concluded that Raytheon has "made progress" implementing critical changes, according to the service statement. But on Sunday, Kendall sounded less than enthused with the work thus far produced.
"To be blunt, it's a mixed bag. I'm seeing some evidence of progress, but I'm still seeing some problems," Kendall said. "I think Raytheon is putting additional resources into the program and I do see some signs of improvement. We also have had a couple of hiccups, I'll say."
However, Kendall reiterated the belief that starting over could create its own set of problems and indicated the best option would be for Raytheon to fix the problems and get back on track.
"It's a critical system. It would be very disruptive to stop where we are and start over," Kendall 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."
While dealing with Raytheon, Kendall is also concerned about actions on Capitol Hill, which he says could seriously damage any hopes of getting OCX back on track. He specifically called out moves in Congress pushing for funding cuts on the program due to the delays.
"My biggest concern right now is some of the things Congress is doing to the program would make it impossible to execute successfully, so we're going to be having conversations with the relevant committees," he said. "I believe it is still possible for Raytheon to deliver this product, and I want them to do that. If we take steps that would preclude that possibility, that's not helpful."
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.