Space Acquisitions: DOD's Goals for Resolving Space Based Infrared System Software Problems Are Ambitious

GAO-08-1073 Published: Sep 30, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 2008.
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Highlights

In 1996, DOD initiated the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) to replace the nation's current missile detection system, and to provide expanded missile warning capability. Since then, SBIRS has been restructured several times to stem cost increases and schedule delays, including revising program goals in 2002, 2004, and 2005. These actions were partly due to the challenges of developing sophisticated technologies and software. In 2007, SBIRS had a major setback when flight software for the first satellite underwent testing and failed, a failure caused by design issues. DOD developed a plan for resolving these issues, and revised its cost and schedule goals. GAO has assessed (1) the approach used to mitigate the problems, and (2) the cost and schedule risks and challenges of that approach. To conduct our work, GAO has contacted, met with, and performed detailed work at numerous DOD and contractor offices; and reviewed technical documents on flight software.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To better ensure that SBIRS can meet the cost and schedule goals for resolving the flight software problems as well as launch the first satellite on schedule, the Secretary of Defense should revise the cost and schedule estimates based on more realistic assumptions to increase the confidence of success.
Closed - Not Implemented
The launch of the first Resolving Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO satellite has slipped at least nine months and the AF has not yet developed a new cost or schedule baseline.
Department of Defense To better ensure that SBIRS can meet the cost and schedule goals for resolving the flight software problems as well as launch the first satellite on schedule, the Secretary of Defense should require that the contractor make adherence to disciplined software practices a priority to reduce program risk.
Closed - Not Implemented
Although DoD agrees that adherence to disciplined software development processes improves the quality and predictability of the software development while reducing the amount of rework, the program office has accepted two process waivers from the contractor "to streamline the development process and reduce the schedule risk associated with the December 2009 projected launch date." Although the program office states that the process waivers have had no adverse impacts to the FSS development, FSS development is nevertheless behind schedule and the launch has been delayed an additional nine months.

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