Space Defense:

Management and Technical Problems Delay Operations Center Acquisition

IMTEC-89-18: Published: Apr 20, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 20, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Air Force's progress in acquiring the first two blocks of its Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC) modernization program, focusing on: (1) why Block A, intended to provide the hardware and software for automating the assessment of foreign activities affecting U.S. satellites, did not meet Air Force requirements and was significantly behind schedule; (2) whether Block B development, intended to improve space surveillance by making orbital position predictions for 400 satellites, could correct Block A problems; and (3) how effectively the Air Force managed the program.

GAO found that the Air Force: (1) has invested over $235 million in SPADOC, which is now more than 4 years behind schedule and far from meeting its required operational capability; (2) continued to press forward with the program despite technical contractor warnings that it would be difficult to meet requirements; (3) consistently deferred resolution of problems involving controlled mode security, software development, performance prediction model validity, and design integrity to later development phases; (4) accepted Block A, which did not meet most of the requirements and was not operational; (5) rejected the initial Block B design in 1988, since it would not meet all of the requirements, but scheduled review of another design in April 1989; and (6) has not yet obtained congressional funding for Block C development, intended to complete the automated capability needed to consolidate the U.S. Space Command's space defense data processing functions. GAO believes that, under the best circumstances, SPADOC will become operational at least 6 years late and $147 million over the original budget.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress did not withhold program funding.

    Matter: Congress should withhold further funding for the SPADOC acquisition until the Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) has submitted, and the Secretary of Defense has approved, program plans.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Secretary allowed development to continue while it prepared for DAB review.

    Recommendation: Due to the mission-critical nature of the SPADOC project, its high cost, its developmental difficulties, and its history of ineffective Air Force management, the Secretary of Defense should halt Block B development until the Air Force has complied with congressional requirements to submit North American Aerospace Defense Command modernization programs, including SPADOC, to DAB review.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force presented information related to this recommendation to DAB in September 1989. DAB approved the Air Force's approach on October 25, 1989.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should specifically submit to DAB recommendations on the ultimate disposition of the SPADOC Block A system. If the Secretary recommends continuing to use Block A as an interim improvement over the current, primarily manual system, these plans should include: (1) an evaluation of the capabilities and deficiencies of the Block A system as accepted; (2) an assessment of the incremental costs and benefits of changes and modifications required to make the system fully operational; and (3) recommendations on how Block A should be used based on careful analysis of costs incurred and benefits derived.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force presented information related to this recommendation to DAB in September 1989. DAB approved the Air Force's approach on October 25, 1989.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should specifically submit to DAB plans for the future SPADOC system. These plans should include a thorough analysis of the requirements for SPADOC and the feasibility of satisfying those requirements, in particular controlled mode security. Plans should also include identification and analysis of alternative technical and contractual approaches to meeting the requirements, and well-founded estimates of costs and benefits of the alternative approaches.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

 

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