Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski: Lockheed Martin is free to manage subcontractors as it chooses. (US Air Force)
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — If Lockheed Martin wants to find a new source for a key component on its GPS III satellite, the US Air Force won’t stand in its way, according to the head of the service’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC).
“Obviously we want a GPS III that does what its supposed to do, delivered on time, and it’s up to Lockheed to manage its subcontractors,” Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said. “My view is if Lockheed is not happy with their subcontractors nav payload, and they believe that they can get a lower risk approach to delivering a nav payload by seeking a secondary source for that, then that’s clearly a decision for them to make.”
Gen. William Shelton, the head of Air Force Space Command, said in February that issues with contractor Exelis’ navigational payload was causing delays in the GPS III system. It has been unclear what Lockheed can do about the problem, as there doesn’t appear to be many companies capable of making an alternative product.
That hasn’t stopped talk that Lockheed, the prime contractor on the program, could seek an alternative producer, and Pawlikowski’s comments will do nothing to quench that thought.
“They know we are not happy with — they being Lockheed — that we are disappointed at the delays that we have seen, the technical issues that their subcontractor has had, and probably they are considering whether an alternative source could provide them a better opportunity,” she said.
Asked whether this was a decision left entirely to Lockheed or if the Air Force would weigh in, Pawlikowski noted that she talks regularly with Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed’s Space Systems.
“We share opinions, and he shares with me some of the things they’re looking at, everything from potentially a complete replacement, to certain key components, the kind of trade that frankly any client makes as you look at best managing your subcontractors, and everything from pulling parts of it in to looking at some in-house versus make-buy decisions for some of the pieces,” she said.
“I think that Lockheed is doing the right things to figure out how do they best deliver the GPS III in the timelines that they’re expected to.”
This year’s National Space Symposium will likely be the last attended by Pawlikowski in her role as head of SMC. She has been nominated to the role of military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. While that position requires Senate approval, there is unlikely to be much challenge to her nomination.
Pawlikowski used her keynote speech Wednesday morning to reflect on her time at SMC, highlighting how changes in military partnerships with international allies and the commercial sector, as well as flexibility in the budget process, kept her agency on track.
“Let me tell you how we did — I have to say beyond my wildest expectations,” she said, highlighting that SMC’s budget dropped from $8 billion in 2012 to $5.6 billion in 2014. “We didn’t lose a single production satellite. We’re still producing the same number of satellites that we said we would.”
“Exelis has made good progress on the first GPS III Space Vehicle, SV01 Navigation Payload,” Lockheed Martin spokesman Chip Eschenfelder wrote in a statement. “All GPS III SV01 Navigation Payload components have successfully completed unit acceptance and environmental testing; with the exception of one component, the Mission Data Unit.”
“To date, significant MDU hardware testing indicates signal cross talk issues are resolved,” the statement continued. “The SV01 Navigation Payload forecast delivery to Lockheed Martin is Fall 2014.”