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Watchdog slams Pentagon's alternative PNT program for faulty business case

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Written by John Harper

The Department of Defense does not have a full business case for several critical programs it is pursuing to develop alternative precision navigation and timing (PNT) capabilities.

Both the U.S. military and civilians rely on GPS for navigation and other tasks, but the satellites, ground control stations, and receivers that support GPS are vulnerable to enemy attack. The Department of Defense is pursuing backup options in case the system is unavailable to the military and its weapon systems.

“Military services are developing alternative PNT capabilities to complement GPS. pointed out in a recently published study.

Key elements of the business case, as outlined by the GAO, include requirements documentation, acquisition strategies, technology and schedule risk assessments, and independent cost estimates.

“Complete business case information helps Department of Defense and Congressional decision makers oversee acquisition efforts. without a complete business case, the Department of Defense assumes more risk and This could lead to reduced functionality of the final system, delayed delivery of PNT capabilities to fighter aircraft, or increased unexpected costs,” warned the report.

Of the five Department of Defense alternative PNT efforts cited by Watchdog, it uses the primary capability acquisition pathway or the middle tier of the acquisition pathway.

According to GAO, both the Navy’s Automated Celestial Navigation System (ACNS) program and the PNT’s upgrade to a joint combat capability lack schedule and technology risk assessments.

Meanwhile, officials involved in the Navy’s AN/WSN-12 inertial navigation system effort had not finished drafting an assessment of technology and schedule risks when the oversight agency completed its report. Officials involved in the Navy’s upgrade to GPS-Based His PNT Services (GPNTS) initiative were in the process of drafting a requirements document.

The GAO has recommended to the Secretary of the Navy to ensure that the military’s alternative PNT efforts have a complete business case element.

“Major acquisition practices highlight the value of fully documenting a business case before initiating an acquisition program. Without a complete business case, decision makers such as the PNT Oversight Council We do not have enough information to determine which and when alternative PNT capabilities will become available and whether those PNT capabilities will be able to counter threats as the threat landscape evolves,” the study said. increase.

“Completing the missing business case elements of these programs will provide the Department of Defense and Congress with critical information to use in oversight and funding decisions aimed at providing these critical functions. You can get it,” he added.

In its official response to the draft GAO report, the Department of Defense agreed in part with its recommendations.

“A fully documented business case with all the elements provides leaders with the best information to make acquisition decisions,” said director of Defense Research and Engineering for Advanced Capabilities at the time of correspondence. Terrence Emmert, who was acting as his deputy, wrote: Emmert is currently the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Mission Functions in the Undersecretary of Defense’s Office of Research and Engineering.

Emmert said the Navy has already made significant progress in completing or partially completing most of the business case elements of the PNT effort cited in the report.

However, the Department of Defense does not believe that every program should have a perfect business case.

“The Department of Justice also recognizes that not all programs require all elements of the business case, and gives acquisition officers the flexibility to meet those needs through reasonable alternatives. ,” said Emmert. “These decisions concern real-world considerations, such as acquisition reform to increase the speed and agility of the DoD acquisition system. Promote a culture of accepting a reasonable level of risk. Costs, Optimize individual programs across schedules, performance, and cost-effectiveness of each business case element.

GAO said the Navy has no plans to assess technical or scheduling risks for the automated celestial navigation system program. Regarding the Cooperative Engagement Capability upgrade, the Navy said it does not plan to assess schedule risks.

Instead of conducting a technical risk assessment for the AN/WSN-12 inertial navigation system effort, program personnel decided to leverage a technical risk assessment for systems similar to AN/WSN-12, according to Watchdog. did.

GAO also recommended to the Secretary of Defense to ensure that the Department of Defense’s PNT Oversight Council establishes strategic goals and indicators to measure the progress of efforts within its portfolio.

“Defined goals and metrics will allow the Council to better measure overall performance and the potential of PNT capabilities as the military transitions to using M-code for stronger encrypted signals. It helps to reduce the gap”.

The Department of Defense agreed with that recommendation.

Emmert said the PNT Executive Management Board (EMB) has developed recommended goals and objectives for the department’s PNT operations that have been approved by the Oversight Council.

“These goals and objectives will be monitored through regular meetings in the Department of Defense PNT Enterprise Working Group, and the status will be reported at EMB and PNT Oversight Council meetings. will be featured in the annual report of the PNT Oversight Council,” he added.