Space Acquisitions: Committing Prematurely to the Transformational Satellite Program Elevates Risks for Poor Cost, Schedule, and Performance Outcomes

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Correspondence issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "In a multibillion-dollar effort, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to build a space-based communications system that leverages technologies never before used in space. Such a system would enable DOD to transform how information is collected on potential U.S. adversaries and how military forces are warned of hostile action. The backbone of this system will be the Transformational Satellite (TSAT), which is expected to play a pivotal role in connecting communications networks on the ground, in the air, on ships, and in space. TSAT represents a potential leap ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. December 4, 2003.

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Correspondence issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "In a multibillion-dollar effort, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to build a space-based communications system that leverages technologies never before used in space. Such a system would enable DOD to transform how information is collected on potential U.S. adversaries and how military forces are warned of hostile action. The backbone of this system will be the Transformational Satellite (TSAT), which is expected to play a pivotal role in connecting communications networks on the ground, in the air, on ships, and in space. TSAT represents a potential leap forward in communications speed, security, and availability. The Air Force, which heads up DOD's space programs, intends for TSAT to be interoperable with similar systems being acquired for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the intelligence agencies. The initial TSAT program is expected to cost about $12 billion from 2003 to 2015 for development and production. Several billions more are to be spent acquiring and supporting the associated ground infrastructure, including thousands of user terminals. The Air Force intends to start the acquisition program in December 2003 and expects to launch the first TSAT in 2011. To help pay for TSAT, the Air Force has scaled back its acquisition of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites currently under development. However, because of senior military commanders' concerns about TSAT's risks and the potential delay in delivering improved space communications, the Air Force plans to reassess the need for future AEHF funding in November 2004. If TSAT is considered too high a risk to meet the warfighter's expectations, the contingency plan is to take TSAT's funding--thereby delaying TSAT's development--and use it to buy another AEHF satellite. The Air Force has targeted November 2004 as the latest date such a decision could be made and still include funds for AEHF in the DOD budget submission for fiscal year 2006. We conducted this assessment in response to the large investment planned and the importance of the communications capabilities promised by TSAT and AEHF. Specifically, we assessed the Air Force's readiness to (1) initiate a TSAT acquisition program in December 2003 and (2) make a decision in November 2004 about whether to take TSAT funding and use it to buy another AEHF satellite."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • December 4, 2003

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Space Acquisitions: Committing Prematurely to the Transformational Satellite Program Elevates Risks for Poor Cost, Schedule, and Performance Outcomes, text, December 4, 2003; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302120/: accessed December 12, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.