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GAO: DOD Fails To Meet TSAT Schedule, Performance Goals

By | May 30, 2006

      The Department of Defense (DOD) has failed to meet its original cost, schedule and performance goals in the Transformational Satellite Communications System (TSAT) program, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report stated.

      And it seems clear that the first satellites in the communications network constellation will lack some advanced technologies that will be included in other TSAT birds launched later, according to the GAO report requested by congressional committees.

      Ultimately, DOD hopes that TSAT will employ a combination of laser (in space) and high-speed radio (to the ground) communications to link warfighting participants in an efficient network. The system also is known as Transformational Communications–Space Segment (TSAT SS).

      “The Department of Defense is not meeting original cost, schedule and performance goals established for the TSAT program,” the nonpartisan watchdog agency found.

      The program kicked off two years ago with two contractor teams, one headed by The Boeing Co. [BA] and the other by Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], poised to develop competing versions of the spacecraft.

      Actually, the TSAT cost thus far hasn’t risen all that much. Originally estimated at $15.5 billion, the sticker price estimate still hasn’t topped $16 billion.

      But as far as schedule, there an initial satellite launch in 2011 now is seen delayed to September 2014, the report noted.

      Further, while the program still envisions multiple satellites providing globe-girdling comms coverage, the capability of the first satellites launched may be less than DOD originally planned, according to the GAO.

      Even before receiving the latest GAO report, members of Congress had misgivings about TSAT, twice cutting funds for the program on concerns that technology wasn’t mature that would be needed to make it work well, and because of worries about an aggressive TSAT acquisition schedule, the report recalled.

      As it has with other DOD programs, the GAO criticized Pentagon leaders for rushing the TSAT program before technologies were mature. “DOD developed the initial goals [for TSAT] before it had sufficient knowledge about critical TSAT technologies,” the report stated.

      The GAO report wasn’t entirely negative in its assessment of TSAT.

      “DOD is taking positive steps to lower risk in the TSAT program so it can enter the product development phase with greater chance of success,” the GAO acknowledged.

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