Congress Shuns GPS Dual Launch Study

by

WASHINGTON — Congress rejected a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) request for an additional $20 million in 2012 to develop a GPS satellite dual launch capability and approved only a small portion of the U.S. Army’s proposal to divert funding from a satellite-enabled tactical communications network to other programs.

In an undated response to a multiservice reprogramming request submitted by the DoD in June, lawmakers gave the Army permission to shift just $54 million out of the service’s $865.7 million budget for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) program in 2012, according to documents posted Oct. 10 on the Pentagon’s website. The Army had asked to take $334.6 million from WIN-T and spend it on other activities.

WIN-T is a multibillion-dollar program to field a high-speed, high-capacity backbone network that uses satellite and terrestrial radio links to connect mobile tactical Army forces to command centers. General Dynamics C4 Systems, with major operations in Taunton, Mass., is prime contractor on the program, which has been plagued by cost overruns and undergone at least one restructuring. The WIN-T program includes transportable Ka- and Ku-band satellite terminals.

The Army originally planned to use its 2012 WIN-T funding for activities including procurement of all components needed to field 13 brigade combat teams by this fall. In submitting the reprogramming request, the Army said it wanted to better align the schedules of various program elements, but members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation opposed the move.

The Air Force’s effort to develop hardware necessary to launch two GPS 3 navigation satellites simultaneously, meanwhile, is funded in the service’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program engineering, manufacturing and development account. Congress appropriated $53.8 million for that account in 2012 and the Air Force sought to augment that number by $20 million to further study the dual launch option.

All GPS satellites to date have launched one at a time. The Air Force estimates it could save $50 million in launch costs per satellite with the dual launch option, savings that would add up to hundreds of millions of dollars over time.

GPS 3 prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver and rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) submitted a plan in January for dual launches starting with the fifth and sixth GPS 3 satellites in 2017. Denver-based ULA, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture, is prime contractor for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.

The first dual launch study, conducted by Lockheed Martin and ULA, certified the initial design of the dual-launch payload adapter for ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, Keoki Jackson, vice president of navigation systems for Lockheed Martin, said in a September interview. The two companies started another study this fall to improve the maturity of that design, and expect to complete that work in early 2013, Jackson said.

Decisions on the 2012 budget continue to affect government programs during the 2013 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. That is because all U.S. government agencies, including the Pentagon, are operating under a continuing resolution that maintains funding at 2012 levels for the first six months of fiscal year 2013.

Congress approved the DoD’s request to reduce the Army’s Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal program procurement budget by $30 million. The Army proposed the reduction because it decided that the existing 278 systems will meet requirements. After the reduction, the program’s 2012 procurement budget is $19.7 million, and that money will be used for upgrading the existing systems.

The Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal system provides tactical users with secure satellite communications. The system is designed for use with the Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites and legacy Milstar satellites.