Final Defense Authorization Act Supports GPS Spending, Cuts Back-Up

Final Defense Authorization Act Supports GPS Spending, Cuts Back-Up
Photo Courtesy of Louis Velazquez via Unsplash

The newly signed Defense Authorization Act incorporates a number of GPS-related provisions though a measure ordering the creation of a GPS timing back-up was pulled by conferees as they hammered out their final deal.

The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 (HR 5515) approves spending of $716 billion of which $1.46 billion will go to the GPS program. The NDAA authorizes nearly the entire White House request for GPS though it cuts $18 million from the GPS III F budget because, according to the conference report, there was “insufficient justification” for the money.

Timing Back-Up
Signed into law on August 10, the final language also cut a provision mandating a back-up for GPS-provided timing.

The House bill originally included the fiscal year 2019 (FY19) authorization language for the U.S. Coast Guard. The National Timing Resilience and Security Act of 2018 was attached to the Coast Guard bill, which was seen as relatively uncontroversial and likely to pass.

Under the Act the Secretary of Transportation would establish a resilient and reliable alternative timing system — given that money was appropriated for it. The system had to be wireless, terrestrial and able to penetrate underground and inside buildings — all characteristics of the widely supported, and repeatedly delayed, eLoran system.

The Coast Guard bill itself, however, ran into a snag, said Dana Goward, president of the Resilient Navigation & Timing Foundation. Though it’s unclear if the problem was language in the bill itself or a jurisdictional issue between committees, the entire Coast Guard bill was removed from the NDAA for separate consideration — and with it went the timing measure.

“The Coast Guard bill was broken out and, by extension, the timing bill part was broken out of the NDAA also,” said Goward.

Receivers
Lawmakers did include other GPS-related directives, however, including one ordering that a component of the Department of Defense be made accountable for coordinating the modernization of military equipment with M-code capable GPS receiver cards. The Senate agreed to the House language and the conferees encouraged the Secretary of Defense to draw on the expertise of the Council on Oversight of the Department of Defense Position, Navigation, and Timing Enterprise.

The Senate also agreed with the House on another enhancement for U.S. military receivers. Lawmakers want to ensure M-code devices have the capability to receive signals from the European Galileo and Japanese QZSS satellite navigation constellations. This would not apply to the receiver cards currently being developed under Increment 1 of the Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) program but would start with Increment 2.

The new receivers should also be able to use “non-allied positioning, navigation and timing signals” if the Secretary of Defense determines that the benefits outweigh the risks or the risks can be appropriately mitigated, the bill said.

The Defense Secretary can waive adding QZSS and Galileo signals to Increment 2 for national security reasons but would have to report back to Congress on what those reasons were — and give a plan for integrating the signals in the future.

OCX
Lawmakers kept in a requirement for a detailed report looking at whether the current Global Positioning System Operational Control Segment (OCS) could be improved to the point where it could “achieve capabilities similar to the Next Generation Operational Control Segment” (OCX). Congress has been deeply unhappy with progress on OCX and it would appear they are looking for alternatives.

The final version of the FY19 NDAA ordered a report on what it would take to bring OCS up to the level of OCX in terms of cybersecurity and what the schedule would be.  It also asked for DOD to describe any improvements needed for OCX and, finally, requested a comparison of the schedule for the improved OCS and the updated OCX.

In addition to the report, Section 883 of the new law ensures that OCX will be among one of 16 programs tapped for a pilot program using new “agile or iterative development methods.” The goal is to tailor and simplify military software programs. The pilot was set up in the FY18 NDAA and programs to be picked for the pilot had to have had, among other factors, cost escalations and schedule delays — which certainly would apply to OCX.

The FY18 NDAA included a provision to have the Secretary of Defense develop a realignment plan for each participating program aimed at lowering costs. The pilot was designed to enable a certain amount of flexibility and “outcomes-based requirements.” In case that was not enough, the language also directed the Secretary to “consider options for termination of the relationship with any vendor unable or unwilling to offer terms that meet the requirements of this section.”

The OCX program, however, may have already taken at least some of the necessary corrective steps. In 2016 it moved its programming onto to Amazon Web Services (AWS), tapping the cloud to enable faster programing and testing using multiple, parallel environments.  It remains to be seen what kind of improvement is possible under the new the pilot program.

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