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Lawmakers Rap Air Force's Troubled GPS Upgrade Program

Lawmakers are seething over more program delays for the Air Force -- this time for a critical space program: the next-generation GPS operational control system, known as OCX.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces Subcommittee, and Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., the ranking member of the subcommittee, on Monday scolded the service for another alleged delay in the Raytheon-made program.

"Recent news that GPS OCX has blown through the latest schedule and cost estimates … casts greater urgency on the debate on space reorganization," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. The delay was first reported by Bloomberg News.

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Officials have said the OCX program, which aims to buy new ground control stations, is needed to provide "enhanced cyber security to the GPS constellation and to control the next-generation of GPS-III satellites."

The lawmakers said the program has "now grown in cost by $630 million" to roughly $6 billion total -- with potential to increase even more.

"The current system is wasting billions of dollars and failing to deliver capability to the warfighter," Cooper and Rogers said. "Our adversaries have already reorganized their space programs and are reaping the benefits."

Rogers in recent months has been outspoken about the Air Force's space mission. For example, the congressman has advocated for a separate service for space, what he's dubbed the U.S. Space Corps.

In light of space advancements from Russia and China, Rogers added language creating the branch to the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. In June, the House Armed Services Committee voted 60-1 to move forward with a separate Space Corps.

"Those who continue to oppose reform need to explain to the warfighter, the American people, and their elected representatives how the status quo is acceptable," the lawmakers said Monday.  

OCX, now delayed an additional nine months, won't deploy until at least April 2022, officials said.

"The OCX program has been a troubled program from the beginning. We are placing a lot of pressure on the contractor, and expect Raytheon to do the job they are contracted to perform," Air Force spokeswoman Capt AnnMarie Annicelli told Military.com in a statement Tuesday.

Raytheon says the program is on track.

"While we cannot speak to the Air Force's pre-decisional updated baseline, in March 2017, the US Air Force updated Raytheon's 24-month contract to add an additional 6 months of margin. We remain on track to deliver this essential, advanced capability," spokeswoman Heather Uberuaga said in an email.

Uberuaga further stated that an additional time margin was built into the company's agreement with the service.

"We reset the program baseline at 24 months for delivery in December 2020. If we use the 6 months of margin, that would put us at June 2021.  We're on track to deliver to that," she said.

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