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Lockheed Martin Screwup Delays Delivery of Air Force GPS Satellites (bloomberg.com) 68

schwit1 writes: Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions. Bloomberg reports: "Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military's targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians' smartphones. The program's latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. 'This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,' Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News. The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite's power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn't conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010. Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris 'immediately notified Lockheed and the government' after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message." So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then they did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan. The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the U.S. tax payer has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.
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Lockheed Martin Screwup Delays Delivery of Air Force GPS Satellites

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  • And which fucktard in the government signed this stinker? Might this fucktard now be on Lockheed Martin's payroll now?

    • . . . Let us be thankful that contractors don't make mistakes like this when building nuclear weapons . . .

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I dunno, the headline isn't bad:

        Today, due to component failure, instead of nuclear annihilation, the US and Russia pledge to investigate the simultaneous failure of Bobby's Bargain Basement Bomb Components.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Think of the lowest tender when you talk about nuclear weapons. Just to make you feel that little bit cosier keep in mind defence contractors first priority is to executive bonuses, than shareholder returns and then maintaining staff and somewhere in no mans land, defence of the country. If they can produce cheap crap that fails with maximum profit margins and get away with it, they will and they will do it on purpose, so they can replace that crap with, more crap.

        When defence contractors first priority is

      • How would you know? They're not being tested anymore.
    • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Friday February 10, 2017 @07:57PM (#53843259)
      cost plus contracts are about the only ones that are legitimately bid. most of the others are insider-type "fixes". historically, cost plus has meant three things: 1. if the US Government (contracting agency) changes anything after awarding the bid, cost plus activates. 2. if any other Government (China) changes any procurement procedures, cost plus activates. 3. finally, if an Act of God, War, or other devastation delays fulfillment, cost plus activates. yes, the US taxpayers pay more (they always do under most systems), but they get real competition in bidding. without cost plus protection, bidding would be limited to the insiders.
      • I'm a veteran of several federal and various state contracts. As turkeydance described, cost plus doesn't mean spend whatever the hell you want. Generally even with cost plus you have to get a change order to approve the additional costs, basically an addendum to the original contract. In my experience they're absolutely necessary because the client (the government) frequently changes requirements midstream. About half the time it's because of changing leadership/priorities and even changing laws. The

      • 1. if the US Government (contracting agency) changes anything after awarding the bid, cost plus activates. 2. if any other Government (China) changes any procurement procedures, cost plus activates. 3. finally, if an Act of God, War, or other devastation delays fulfillment, cost plus activates.

        I don't know anything about cost plus contracts, but of the three things you listed, incompetence/negligence doesn't appear to activate cost plus.

      • This is not correct. Cost Plus means the contractor is paid for actual work done plus either a fixed fee or an award feed... thus CPFF or CPAF contract types.

        Cost plus contracts are NOT the only ones bid legitimately... its normally the opposite. if you know you are you are going to get paid for your actual hours worked, you bid as low as you can justify and then incur over runs later for "risks"', etc.

        Point (1): no cost plus never "kicks in" like this. Even in other contract types if anything is ch
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Friday February 10, 2017 @07:36PM (#53843181) Homepage
    Maybe a couple low level contract managers will lose jobs, but even that's doubtful. Certainly no one will get prosecuted. The taxpayers are out millions, Lockheed Martin can continue bidding government jobs and don't even have to pay the money back.
    • What's the alternative? Project finished on time, and on budget. Government moves to roll out the next one, Lockheed Martin get given it and life carries on.

      In the case of these style of government contracts it becomes silly to consider the contract at hand. Instead simply consider everyone involved to simply be a salary member of government staff. All that's really happening is the project is slightly behind delaying the next one. The tax payer is still breaking even as there's never a period where Lockhee

      • The alternative is to ban "cost plus" contracts. Screw up and overrun the costs specified in you bid? Tough cookies. Eat it on your P&L leader, and do a better job bidding next time.

        Another, at least as good and maybe better, option is antitrust. Break up the globs back into Northrop, Hughes, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Marietta, Glenn Martin Co, Grumman, McDonnell Aircraft, Douglas Aircraft, Convair, North American, Republic, Boeing, Rockwell, and so on... so that there are a dozen manufacturers a

        • by sh00z ( 206503 )

          The alternative is to ban "cost plus" contracts. Screw up and overrun the costs specified in you bid? Tough cookies. Eat it on your P&L leader, and do a better job bidding next time.

          Another, at least as good and maybe better, option is antitrust. Break up the globs back into Northrop, Hughes, General Dynamics, Lockheed, Marietta, Glenn Martin Co, Grumman, McDonnell Aircraft, Douglas Aircraft, Convair, North American, Republic, Boeing, Rockwell, and so on... so that there are a dozen manufacturers actually bidding competitively for contracts with incentives to keep costs under control, lest the contract goto a more reliable competitor.

          After all, when there are only two choices, why *Should* Lockheed Martin (from their perspective) deliver a fully-functional air or space craft as promised, and on-time and on-budget. What's the government going to do after all, go to Northrop "2 billion dollar stealth bomber" Grumman?

          You haven't thought out the consequences. If these are all bid a Firm Fixed Price (the alternative), every bidder is going to pad their costs to compensate for the possibility of things going wrong at some point during the development . Depending on the likelihood of that (cutting-edge technology, etc.) this will be anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the original estimate. Would you rather pay 20% more overall, or take the chance of a 10% overrun?

  • Bad journalism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcbarlow ( 166225 ) on Friday February 10, 2017 @07:52PM (#53843237)
    This is just total nonsense: "The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite's power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem" Nope, wrong, try again.
    • by dstyle5 ( 702493 )
      Maybe that definition was obtained from a Harris document, might explain a few things.
    • Nope, wrong, try again.

      Oh I take it you work for Lockheed Martin and therefore have insider knowledge of the exact circuit involved and therefore know with some certainty that the powersupply is not of a divided AC type or switch capacitor regulation type or any of those other tuned circuits where capacitors are used to adjust and regulate the voltage of supply.

      Thanks for the insider info.

  • The more you screw up, the more money you get paid... Hmm, maybe we do need someone like Trump to negotiate those contracts...
    • "The more you screw up, the more money you get paid..."

      If I remember correctly, cost-plus basically says that the government will pay the costs of fixing the overruns (labor, materials, etc) but the company does not get any additional profit/fee. This allows a bid to be closer to reality, rather than each bid having to be padded to make up for eventual mistakes. It also gives the government a way to alter requirements without the company taking them to the cleaners for the contract mods.

  • Trump, whether you hate him or just strongly dislike him, will probably be tweeting about this tomorrow and LMCO will be up sh!t creek.

    • Trump, whether you hate him or just strongly dislike him, will probably be tweeting about this tomorrow and LMCO will be up sh!t creek.

      As if.
      Tomorrow he will be tweeting about how those mean old judges won't bend to his will, or about how ugly some female critic is.

  • No no no. That's the best part. Depending on you POV.
  • The US will probably need all that tax-payers money elsewhere to build the wall to Mexico, so why not use the European Galileo Satelite Navigation [wikipedia.org] instead - which already provides for much better spatial resolution?
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      The US will probably need all that tax-payers money elsewhere to build the wall to Mexico, so why not use the European Galileo Satelite Navigation [wikipedia.org] instead - which already provides for much better spatial resolution?

      At least they flagged a potential reliability problem with GPS *before* they were launched. ESA is still trying to figure out [phys.org] what the reliability problem with their clocks might be...

      Unfortunately, (or fortunately) space is hard...

      • ... At least they flagged a potential reliability problem with GPS *before* they were launched. ... Unfortunately, (or fortunately) space is hard...

        It is fortunate for the failure analysts. When a satellite is nearing launch and there is an issue with some part – that is when the money hose opens wide, and the USAF SMC's failure analysis lab (an FFRDC) is called upon, the money just gushes. They throw every analysis technique at the thing, whether it is appropriate or not. And they punish employees who solve the problem too quickly. I have personally been commanded to, "Go back and keep working on it for a couple of more weeks." That's just

  • Harris (Score:3, Informative)

    by fred133 ( 449698 ) on Saturday February 11, 2017 @01:50AM (#53844717) Homepage Journal

    Apparently, Harris makes more on their Stingray II units than these sub-assemblies for Lockheed.
    I'm sure the lead time on a StingRay is 7~10 working days for delivery, or overnight if you want to pay for the expedited freight.
    Obviously they have no scruples.

  • Don't worry: the EU GPS system https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wik... [wikipedia.org] will soon be live, so there will be no need to fund a duplicate US system. You can save yourselves some money ;-)

  • Typical government employees pissing away taxpayer dollars. No business in their right minds would absorb the costs of errors committed by a supplier, and Trump should have the head of the bureaucrat who signed off on this contract on a platter. At minimum the industry standard of "if you screw it up you fix it on your dime" should be in every contract... Maybe this will change with an administration that actually ran a business instead of a community organizer... we sure have been getting the shaft for

  • "Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor..."

    Under the new so-called administration, ignorance and incompetence is a boon.

    • Under the new so-called administration, ignorance and incompetence is a boon.

      As long as you refer to it as "alt-wisdom" and "alt-competence".

  • For purposes of promoting more self reliance, I propose the Government institute a 'GPS Holiday.'

    Every few months, at some random point, the GPS system should be switched off for a few hours.

    It would help assure that humanity not become vulnerable to a navigation system that could tumble down at any time.

  • Here we go again...

    <sarcasm>
    You can't apply that title to the article. It's not Lockheed's fault. They have never done anything wrong. They use subcontractors for everything but the choosing of subcontractors. Hell, maybe that's even automated now. Change the title!!! </sarcasm>

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