On the Fast Track

The Air Force, working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, wants to finish the recertification process for the Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellite program around mid October, Gary Payton, the service’s deputy space czar said yesterday. “We are on a pace to do that certification on that schedule,” Payton told reporters at a Sept. 25 Space Foundation-sponsored roundtable in Washington, D.C. Doing so, he said, would allow the Air Force to address AEHF’s programmatic issues “prior to setting the DOD budget [for Fiscal 2010] in concrete,” including the new budget for the transformational satellite communications system (see below), the would-be successor to AEHF. Earlier this month, the Air Force informed Congress that the AEHF program has grown in cost by at least 25 percent more than its original baseline due to developmental issues and the addition of a fourth satellite to the program of record. As a result, by law, OSD and the Air Force must certify to Congress that the program warrants continuation despite the cost spike. Payton said, while it normally takes four to six months to complete the certification process—which includes a mandated review of potential alternatives—the Air Force expressed its desire at the time of notification to finish the process at the accelerated pace.