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Space Acquisitions: DOD Poised to Enhance Space Capabilities, but Persistent Challenges Remain in Developing Space Systems

GAO-10-447T Published: Mar 10, 2010. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 2010.
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The majority of large-scale acquisition programs in the Department of Defense's (DOD) space portfolio have experienced problems during the past two decades that have driven up costs by billions of dollars, stretched schedules by years, and increased technical risks. To address the cost increases, DOD altered its acquisitions by reducing the number of satellites it intended to buy, reducing the capabilities of the satellites, or terminating major space systems acquisitions. Moreover, along with the cost increases, many space acquisitions are experiencing significant schedule delays--as much as 8 years--resulting in potential capability gaps in areas such as missile warning, military communications, and weather monitoring. This testimony focuses on (1) the status of space acquisitions, (2) causal factors of acquisition problems, and (3) efforts underway to improve acquisitions. In preparing this testimony, GAO relied on its body of work, including GAO reports on best practices, assessments of individual space programs, common problems affecting space system acquisitions, and the DOD's acquisition policies. We have made numerous recommendations to the DOD in the past on matters relating to overall best practices as well as on individual space program acquisitions. DOD often concurred with our findings and recommendations and has efforts underway to adopt best practices.

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