The Department of Defense (DoD) is failing to track the continued progress of the military’s development of Global Positioning System (GPS) alternatives and lacks key information to make decisions on funding those initiatives, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
The GAO report – published last week – explained that the U.S. Air Force’s progress reports for its Resilient-Embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation System (R-EGI) are complete. However, the U.S. Navy doesn’t have completed progress reports for four of its alternative position, navigation, and timing (PNT) efforts, leaving DoD officials in the dark about potential risks, benefits, project costs, and more.
The DoD primarily relies on GPS for accurate PNT data, which is essential to effective military operations. But multiple threats can render GPS data unavailable or inaccurate. Department officials recognized the threats to GPS and initiated steps to address them by developing more robust GPS capabilities and alternative PNT technologies.
“The military services are developing alternative PNT capabilities to complement GPS,” the report noted. “[And] a complete business case gives decision makers information at the start of product development to set the program up for success and can limit cost, schedule, and technical problems.”
In the report, GAO recommended that the Navy complete its progress reports. In response, the DoD claimed to have made significant progress in “completing or partially completing most of the outstanding elements of its business cases and agreed that completing [them] is appropriate to reduce uncertainty and risk in their respective programs.”
However, the department noted that “not every program requires every element of a business case and gives acquisition officials the flexibility to meet those needs through reasonable alternatives.”
In addition, GAO criticized DoD’s PNT Oversight Council for focusing most of its attention on modernizing the existing GPS constellation and little on new modes of PNT to fill in when GPS goes down. GAO recommended that the “PNT Oversight Council establish strategic objectives and metrics to measure the progress of its PNT portfolio overall.”
The DoD concurred with GAO’s recommendation and stated that the PNT Executive Management Board has developed goals and objectives – approved by the council – and will be monitored regularly.