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Print 15 comment(s) - last by Christian Ferr.. on May 23 at 9:01 AM

The military faces a serious risk of a satellite gap in the coming years

Pentagon space programs have endured countless errors and inferior technology development which have led to increased cost overruns and delays that hurt the country's ability to create new satellite technology, a government-created panel has said.

The report openly criticized the Lockheed Martin communication satellite program and a Boeing-backed GPS system -- the estimated cost of both programs increased $10.9 billion for seven fiscal years.  Increased expenses that have been left unchecked have eliminated at least several satellite development programs hosted by Boeing and Lockheed.

"Programs focus on advocacy at the expense of realism and sound management," said Cristina Chaplain, Government Accountability Office (GAO) said.  "This year it is also becoming more apparent that space acquisition problems are leading to potential gaps in the delivery of critical capabilities."

Specifically, the Pentagon often underestimates the costs of projects, with companies using "unproven technologies" to try and meet the agency's strict requirements.  The Pentagon must better estimate program costs while government contractors need to use better tested equipment.

The several year delay may lead to the U.S. losing secure military communication satellites and missile warning systems that are used for national defense, the GAO report indicates.

Even though the Pentagon-led space department has faced hurdles, it also has made significant progress, Air Force officials indicated.  In the future, the Pentagon will continue to look to upgrade its satellite fleet to ensure both the civilian and military sectors are able to carry out activities supported today.

Until officials are able to rein in spending, it'll be interesting to see if other programs have to be eliminated before everything is back on track.  It's possible the government will borrow from other programs to try and ensure there isn't a large satellite and missile warning system satellite gap.



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Typical cost overrun meeting
By marvdmartian on 5/22/2009 10:10:22 AM , Rating: 5
Here's my take on your typical meeting between your everyday defense contractor, and a Pentagon general:

DC: General, I'm sorry to say that due to unforseen circumstances, design changes and cost overruns (read: FAT bonuses for management), this project is going to experience a cost overrun of 25%, that we will expect the government to cover.

PG: *SPUTTER* *SPUTTER* *COUGH* *COUGH*!!! TWENTY FIVE PERCENT??? THAT'S OUTRAGEOUS!!

DC: Well, General, you can see in this nifty 2,579 page brief our bean counters put out, exactly why these unforseen circumstances (read: INEFFICIENT PLANNING & LAST MINUTE CHANGES TO COVER OUR BUTTS) are not our fault, and why we believe the taxpayers should pony up and pay (through the nose).

PG: MISTER RIPOFFARTIST!! I fail to see how it is the fault of the Department of Defense or the taxpayer, nor do I see any reason why we should have to pay for your mistakes with huge cost overruns! Furthermore, I'm quite certain that once the Government Accounting Office sees this.....

DC: So, General.....you're coming up on retirement in a few months, aren't you? Any plans yet??

PG: What the devil does that have to do with anything we're discussing today?? Dammit, we were talking about how you're trying to screw the taxpayers!!

DC: Well, I only mention it because our company is currently looking for a man with just your qualifications, and will be offering a 6-figure salary, as well as a handsome benefits package. I only thought you might be interested in dropping us a resume....

PG: Six figures? Ahem......well......I guess we could discuss something beneficial to both your company and the taxpayers.....

DC: And don't forget the benefits package, including healty annual "performance" bonuses!

PG: Benefits?? Hmmmm......well, now I can see exactly what you mean by unforseen circumstances. Tell you what, why don't we just say SCREW the taxpayer, and approve this little overrun?? Hell, let's go ahead and order a few dozen more while we're at it??

DC: VERY GOOD, General!! And we'll be looking forward to seeing your resume very soon, General......or shall I say, "Mister Vice President in charge of Pentagon Procurement"??? (wink wink)




RE: Typical cost overrun meeting
By Bremen7000 on 5/22/2009 11:13:26 AM , Rating: 1
One of the govt reports about the presidential helicopter admitted that the overruns were due to ever-increasing requirements from the govt side, but I guess it's easier to just assume cost increases are going directly to bonuses..


RE: Typical cost overrun meeting
By marvdmartian on 5/22/2009 11:39:24 AM , Rating: 2
Or....one could assume you didn't glance over while reading this, and notice that your sarcasm meter was pegged high?? ;)


RE: Typical cost overrun meeting
By Bremen7000 on 5/22/2009 12:06:49 PM , Rating: 2
Looks like everyone else missed your sarcasm and has jumped on the bandwagon:
VVV


RE: Typical cost overrun meeting
By jhb116 on 5/22/2009 11:28:39 AM , Rating: 2
Funny - sad thing is there is some truth to this.

There is also the problem of "requirements creep" where the system doesn't "meet requirements" so we must have more - you know that costs money - I don't care I want more. Then in walks Congress - I want an alternate engine for that there fighter (never mind the manufacture is in their represented districts). That will increase cost to the program - I don't care - make it happen or I'll see about canceling your program.....

Lots of blame to go around - unfortunately the military gets most of it and acquisition reform will likely have more "laws" which will require more contractors to write more documents and staff those documents to the highest levels costing yet more millions of dollars.......


RE: Typical cost overrun meeting
By marccrazy on 5/22/2009 11:29:30 AM , Rating: 2
LOL…you nailed it.

Reminds me of the movie pentagon wars.

Here is another part of the conversation you missed:

Program Manager: There is not a keyboard to use the computer you sold me.

DC: I’m sorry you didn’t specify you wanted a keyboard for your computer in the baseline that is an enhancement and will add 2 million to the program and take us two years to design in.

At least this has been true from my experience operating Milstar. Milstar is planned to get replaced by AEHF then T-SAT which was canceled. AEHF has run way over budge. The original launch date of AEHF was scheduled for 3Q 08 is now 1Q 09. The root of this problem, like you said, is poorly crafted baselines and contractors charging the government for problems. There is a game played when an issue is found. The seasoned contractor claims it is not in the baseline and is an enhancement and the government program office claims it is an actual discrepancy. It seems to me the contractor usually wins this game.


By General Disturbance on 5/22/2009 11:55:17 AM , Rating: 1
You told it.

I do some government aerospace contract work, and the dipshit engineering companies I have to negotiate with are completely without morals, constantly seeking more money even though they signed fixed-price agreement contracts.

Typical scenario:

Engineering Company: "Here's your super uber mega data collector."

Me: "Great, thanks for the work." 2 weeks later after unwrapping and testing it - "Ummm, the USB connections are all dead, I can't get any data off for distribution and analysis. You do realize the data your machine collects is worthless if I can't get it off the system for analysis?".

Company: "We had to disable the USB interfaces because _insert stupid avoidable reason here_. Fixing it will cost _insert however much money you want arbitrarily_.".

Oh well, at least my opinion matters and when I tell other people not to use Company X for contract work, they don't!


RE: Typical cost overrun meeting
By sinful on 5/22/2009 2:50:51 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Program Manager: There is not a keyboard to use the computer you sold me.

DC: I’m sorry you didn’t specify you wanted a keyboard for your computer in the baseline that is an enhancement and will add 2 million to the program and take us two years to design in.


Yep, that's dead on. The contractors we do business with are the same way. We're non-government too, so it's not just a government thing - it's a contractor thing.

It's not as though the contractors or the government are stupid - the contractors are doing it on purpose.


By stromgald30 on 5/22/2009 6:01:32 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe I'm biased by working in the industry, but I don't think it's really the DC's fault. The constant budget overruns and schedule problems come from a lack of competition. These companies have gotten fat from the lack of competition because the government puts so much into each contract that the smaller contract losers get swallowed up by the bigger ones.

Compounded with the lack of competition is the over-regulation of the products. Because of the high amounts of $$ involved because only a handful of anything is built, the government rides the DC with tons of requirements and oversight. I mean, there's a whole company called The Aerospace Corp. whose business is helping the government watch over defense contractors.

It's gotten to the point where there's whole departments created just to manage requirements (and deal with the government oversight/red tape) and less actual engineering gets done. Basically, IMO, the US Government is shaping the defense industry into something else that it's already has full control of: NASA, and we all know how well that place is being run.


RE: Typical cost overrun meeting
By Regs on 5/22/2009 4:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
This sounds like exactly the same set of circumstances why most of us did not get raises this year.


By Christian Ferraro on 5/23/2009 9:01:15 AM , Rating: 2
Bonuses? Its apparent you don't have and research and development experience, otherwise you would realize how expensive it is. And if the gov. doesn't pay for the "mistakes" then the project doesn't get finished and all the prior money was a waste.


Gap Gap?
By ZedEx Pope on 5/22/2009 9:25:25 AM , Rating: 5
With the Missile Gap, the Fighter Gap, and now the Satellite Gap, does anyone else think the military might be trying out reverse psychology?

I can already see a Russian President/Prime Minister demanding that their generals start work on producing more gaps, to compete with the U.S.




RE: Gap Gap?
By kattanna on 5/22/2009 9:55:43 AM , Rating: 2
LOL, yeah.

lets talk about the "gap" between us and our closest potential enemy. now thats a REAL gap, actually more of a huge gaping chasm of difference.

now, im all for keeping our military up, but lets get realistic. oh wait.. that doesnt make for catchy headlines.



RE: Gap Gap?
By jhb116 on 5/22/2009 11:20:21 AM , Rating: 2
Although I don't dispute the facts - you need to read the article again - the military isn't suggesting a "satellite gap" - the article title and GAO are...


RE: Gap Gap?
By DPigs on 5/22/2009 12:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
As long as we don't have a mineshaft gap....


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