JTRS should promote performance

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Defense Department officials could have found a better way to acquire tactical radio systems than through the $6.8 billion Joint Tactical

Radio System (JTRS), said Arthur Cebrowski, retired Navy vice admiral and director of DOD's Force Transformation Office. Three years after Boeing Co. won a systems architecture contract, JTRS has not delivered any hardware.

Speaking on a Capitol Hill panel about network-centric warfare this month, Cebrowski said instead of awarding large-scale contracts for design and development of tactical radios, DOD officials should have deployed systems to the field, where "performance is the basis for competition." That's the difference between a program and a strategy, he said.

Cebrowski said the distribution of commercial systems is preferable to waiting for the results of long-term development programs. The field makes a good laboratory for maturing systems. If DOD officials had followed this path, tactical forces would be using new radios today, rather than waiting for systems still under development, he said.

Department officials planned the JTRS program to replace existing tactical radios, which soldiers carry or mount in vehicles, aircraft and ships. Those 750,000 radios would be replaced with 180,000 software-defined radios, which could operate in these environments and across a wide swath of the radio frequency spectrum. But hardware deliveries keep slipping.

In addition to Boeing Co., other companies with JTRS contracts include General Dynamics Corp., which has a $295 million contract to develop a soldier-wearable radio, and Lockheed Martin Corp., which won a $50 million-plus contract to develop radio systems for the Navy and Air Force.

Boeing also won a $50 million JTRS contract this month to develop radios for the Air Force and Navy along with Lockheed Martin. Boeing officials also will develop vehicular JTRS units for the Army.

A top manager of Marine Corps tactical radio programs who requested anonymity said prohibitions against fielding new

radios in lieu of JTRS has saddled units operating in Iraq and Afghanistan with old and increasingly outdated equipment that is ill-suited to handle the high-speed data requirements of network-centric warfare.

William Owens, president and chief executive officer of Nortel Networks Ltd. and former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that companies such as Nortel produce a wide range of broadband wireless technologies based on IP that could be adapted to meet DOD tactical requirements. Owens said mesh wireless technologies are particularly useful for department users because the nodes, such as Wi-Fi access points, connect with one another rather than to a wired backhaul or Internet connection.

Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the committee plans to allot $25 billion for network-centric warfare in the Senate's version of the 2005 Defense Authorization bill, currently in markup.

Warner also said DOD officials need more cyberwarfare experts, and he continues to fund education for students who want to pursue the field, with some $30 million allocated to the program in the bill.

Seeking waivers

Based on a review of waiver requests posted on a JTRS Web page, urgent requirement waiver requests have increased, matching the pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Delays in deploying Joint Tactical Radio System radios have forced service members to seek waivers from JTRS program office officials to use nonstandard radios. Based on a review of waiver requests posted on a JTRS Web page, urgent requirement waiver requests have increased, matching the pace of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since late last year, combat units, including the Army Coalition Task Force-82 in Iraq and the new Stryker Brigades at Fort Lewis, Wash., have received waivers to buy more than 8,000 handheld radios. The radios, from Thales North American Inc., a division of the French company Thales, operate in the 30 MHz to 512 MHz frequency range.

Officials selected Thales to develop a JTRS version of the AN/PRC-148, but production models are not due for delivery until next year.

Army and Marine units, including Marine Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Companies, have filed multiple waiver requests this year for more than 2,000 radios produced by Harris Corp. The Harris radios can operate in the military VHF low and high bands, military air control bands and UHF satcom bands.

— Bob Brewin

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