Federal Watchdog: GPS Constellation in Peril

 - May 11, 2009, 6:01 AM

A study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) predicts that GPS service levels could fall well below civil requirements in the next decade. GPS typically has 24 satellites in orbit, although it currently has 31. But these are mainly aging “legacy” units, which are progressively failing and, while replacements are being launched, GAO calculates that these will be insufficient to bridge the gap before the Department of Defense’s advanced technology GPS III satellites are forecast to enter service in 2014. Worse, GAO investigators state that the GPS III program timing is overoptimistic, meaning a two-year delay is likely. GAO predicts that a two-year GPS III delay could cause the constellation to go below the optimum 24 satellites as early as next year and deteriorate to as few as 18 satellites before full recovery in 2022. The report is a startling indictment of lax management, poor contractor oversight, “requirements creep,” indifference to budgets and schedules and the continuing lack of a single individual with complete program responsibility, according to the GAO.