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Defense Space Acquisitions: Too Early to Determine if Recent Changes Will Resolve Persistent Fragmentation in Management and Oversight

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Technical Report

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U.S. Government Accountability Office Washington United States

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The Department of Defense DOD relies on space systems to provide critical capabilities that support military and other government operations, including but not limited to communications missile warning positioning, navigation, and timing and intelligence information. The Air Force, specifically, the Space and Missile Systems Center SMC, develops and acquires most military space systems, and the National Reconnaissance Office NRO develops Intelligence Community IC space systems. These systems can be very challenging to develop and expensive to acquire and field. We and others have reported for over two decades that fragmentation and overlap in DOD space acquisition management and oversight have contributed to program delays and cancellations, cost increases, and inefficient operations. For example, in 2012 we found that fragmented leadership contributed to a 10-year gap between the delivery of GPS satellites and user equipment. We also found that a lack of a government-wide authority hindered space situational awareness acquisition efforts.1 Similarly, last year, we testified that DOD continues to face challenges in aligning the delivery of space system segments, in part, because budgeting authority for the segments is spread across the military services. DOD lacks a single authority to ensure alignment of these segments.2 DOD has noted that space is becoming an increasingly contested domain, resulting in greater threats to deployed military forces. The ability to effectively respond to these threats has increased the importance of focused leadership in national security space.

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