The Pentagon is closely monitoring the future ground control system for the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to ensure the long-troubled program remains on a road to recovery, a service official said May 24.

As part of that heightened scrutiny, the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) has already undergone four quarterly reviews co-chaired by the Air Force secretary and the Defense Department acquisition chief, said Maj. Gen. Roger Teague, director of space programs in the Air Force acquisition office.

An artist's rendering of a GPS III satellite. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
An artist’s rendering of a GPS III satellite. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

“The program is not out of the woods,” Teague told reporters during a briefing on space programs. “I expect that those reviews will continue for the foreseeable future to be able to provide the kind of focus that we need to ensure that that critical capability is delivered as soon as we possibly can.”

In addition, a high-level Defense Acquisition Board is scheduled to conduct a Milestone B review in June to formally consider the program’s latest approach and cost estimate.

“The program continues to make progress,” Teague said. “I don’t want to in any way leave an impression that it’s smooth sailing. It continues to see ups and downs. Overall, the program has stabilized, and we are cautiously optimistic that we’ll see delivery of the capability in accordance with the recertified baseline that we’re laying in place.”

OCX, whose prime contractor is Raytheon [RTN], has been plagued by cost overruns, schedule delays and problems with cyber security, software and systems engineering. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the program is at least five years behind schedule. In June 2016, the Air Force declared that the program had experienced a major cost breach under the Nunn-McCurdy statutory provisions and would receive more oversight.

OCX is supposed to replace the existing ground control system to operate current and future GPS satellites. The GAO said the program’s delays have forced the Air Force to start two separate back-up efforts to ensure GPS capabilities remain available until OCX is delivered.