GAO: Space-based Infrared system may miss schedule

Defense Department officials are fixing software problems associated with DOD's Space Based Infrared System — a military infrared surveillance system — but the schedule of the project may  be in jeopardy, a Government Accountability Office report has concluded.

DOD estimates that the infrared system program will be delayed 15 months and cost an additional $414 million to resolve the flight software problems, according to a GAO report issued Sept. 30. But those estimates appear optimistic, the report said.

“For example, confidence levels -- based on the program's ability to develop, integrate, and test software in time to meet the schedule goal -- have been assessed as low,” the report said.

The review teams who approved the designs to start coding software said the program's aggressive schedule is a major challenge because it allows “little margin for error.”

In April, DOD officials approved the software redesign effort, which addresses problems that affected the timing of stored programs, distribution of control between processors, and failure at the hardware interface level.

DOD and its contractors are now implementing the simplified architecture, developing new software, and testing elements critical to the integration of systems, the report said.

GAO also said DOD is improving its program oversight and is better managing the systems development by acting on the recommendations of an independent program assessment.


To meet the aggressive schedule, DOD officials have granted waivers to streamline the software development processes. Those waivers could be risky, the report said.  

If DOD needs additional time or encounters unexpected problems, more funds will be needed and the launch of the first satellite in December 2009 could be jeopardized, the report said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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