GAO raises more questions about DoD’s capabilities to monitor threats in space
WASHINGTON — The Government Accountability Office issued another report critical of a U.S. Space Force program that is developing software tools to track objects and potential threats in outer space.
GAO in a report released Dec. 22 raised concerns about the Space C2 program — short for space command and control — previously run by the Air Force and now by the Space Force.
Space C2 uses agile software methods to develop apps intended to help operators identify and monitor threats to U.S. and allied space assets, as well as communicate and share information.
The Air Force launched the Space C2 program in 2018 after spending more than $1 billion on a customized platform called Joint Mission System (JMS) to track satellites and debris. Following the cancellation of JMS, Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act demanded annual updates on the Space C2 program.
GAO in its latest report said the information provided to Congress over the past two years on Space C2 makes it difficult to determine if the program has made any real progress.
Space C2 had previously come under criticism from GAO. The agency two years ago suggested the program could benefit for more oversight from the Defense Department and needed metrics to track improvements, and the Air Force disagreed.
The Department of the Air Force submitted annual reports on the Space C2 program in 2020 and 2021 but the information was not helpful to assess the performance of the program, GAO said. “The usefulness of these annual reports for oversight is limited because they lack information needed to provide a more complete picture of the status of the Space C2 program.”
This is problematic “given cost, schedule, and performance challenges faced by previous space command and control efforts,” GAO said. For example, it’s hard to determine the return on DoD’s $150 million-a-year investment in this program because the annual reports do not document user perspectives on the utility and benefits of the new software applications.
DoD in its response to GAO agreed that the Air Force should include users’ perspectives in the program’s annual reports. But DoD pushed back on GAO’s recommendations that the program needs more Pentagon oversight.