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—Wilson Brissett

Deployment of the next-generation ground control system (OCX) for the GPS III satellite constellation has been delayed nine months beyond the Air Force’s most recent estimate, and congressional critics of the Air Force’s management of space operations are pouncing on the news. The service now expects OCX to be operational in April 2022.

Bloomberg first reported the longer delivery schedule, which the service recommended to the Pentagon during a major review of OCX progress in June. The delays are “due in part to realized program technical risks, and includes hardware and software obsolescence,” according to the service, and are expected to cost the program an additional $630 million after 2019.

"The OCX program has been a troubled program from the beginning,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Annemarie Annicelli said in an email statement also provided to Air Force Magazine. “We are placing a lot of pressure on the contractor, and expect Raytheon to do the job they are contracted to perform.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) issued a joint statement on Monday saying the OCX delay provides evidence that “the current system is wasting billions of dollars and failing to deliver capability to the warfighter.” They also said the news “casts greater urgency on the debate on space reorganization.”

The lawmakers have championed a congressional proposal to establish a separate Space Corps to improve national security space operations. “Our adversaries have already reorganized their space programs and are reaping the benefits,” they said. “Those who continue to oppose reform need to explain to the warfighter, the American people, and their elected representatives how the status quo is acceptable.”