WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force’s OCX program, which will procure new ground control stations for the service’s next-generation GPS satellites, has been delayed by another nine months, meaning the technology will not be ready until April 2022, the U.S. Air Force confirmed Monday.
With that delay comes additional cost. Last October, when the Pentagon certified the program would continue despite an increased cost of over 25 percent, it anticipated spending $5.4 billion during the development phase of the program. That figure has now increased to $6 billion, the U.S. Air Force stated.
According to U.S. Air Force spokeswoman AnnMarie Annicelli, the service decided to extend the development phase of the program as a result of “realized program technical risks,” including “hardware and software obsolescence refreshes.”
“The OCX program has been a troubled program from the beginning. We are placing a lot of pressure on the contractor, and expect Raytheon to do the job they are contracted to perform,” she said in a statement to Defense News.
News of the cost increase and schedule delays were first reported by Bloomberg News early on Monday.
The operational control segment, or OCX, will consist of ground control stations that enable civil and military use of the U.S. Air Force’s new GPS III satellites and protect it from hacking and jamming. Development of the OCX capability was estimated to cost $3.5 billion when the program started in 2007. However, costs ballooned — in part, due to Raytheon’s difficulty keeping OCX protected from ever-changing cyber threats — and the program hit a Nunn-McCurdy breach in June 2016, triggering a review of the program.
Although the department ultimately decided to preserve the OCX program, Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, the U.S. Air Force’s director of space programs, told reporters in May that the OCX was “not out of the woods.”
“The program has stabilized, and we are cautiously optimistic that we will see delivery of the capability in accordance with the recertified baseline that we’re laying in place,” he said, adding that the service would assess Raytheon’s delivery plan and certify a new cost estimate during the Milestone B review scheduled for June.
Teague also warned that OCX could still be canceled or recompeted should Raytheon not perform as expected.
In the fiscal year 2018 budget, the U.S. Air Force requested $511 million for OCX. That will fully fund the program’s activities that year, but the service may have to boost its planned funding for OCX in FY18-22 in light of higher estimated program costs, Annicelli stated.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.