WIN-T work to accelerate

Defense Department and Army officials agreed to speed development of the $10.2 billion Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) program so soldiers can use more mobile communications to fight terrorists, according to the service's top information technology officer.

DDO and Army acquisition officials will now discuss the best way to proceed. Last week, they created an interagency group to work on the issue. The officials need to choose between WIN-T prototype systems under development at General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. soon, said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, chief information officer in the Office of the CIO/G-6.

Army officials originally planned to select the top WIN-T system in late 2005. Now, they want to pick the best one as soon as possible and no later than this year, Boutelle said, speaking today during a media briefing on Army networks. Boutelle and Lt. Gen Joe Yakovac, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology -- the service's top acquisition officer -- met three months ago to discuss the future of WIN-T. They decided to change the program's course because the two companies proposed different solutions but with many of the same commercial technologies, and because the service started using more mobile communications in Iraq and Afghanistan, Boutelle said.

A General Dynamics official voiced concern last December about the Army's secrecy on future communications plans. Col. Thomas Cole, WIN-T program manager, said the initiative remained alive.

WIN-T will use ground, air and space-based platforms and sensors to give soldiers more mobile communications, replacing the Mobile Subscriber Equipment-Tri-Service Tactical Terminals. U.S. and coalition forces' distributed operations in Iraq led them to surpass the Cold War-era system that provided voice, video and data services to troops -- but only when they are close to the hardware.

The Army quickly turned to commercial and military satellites to provide beyond-line-of-sight communications for U.S. and coalition forces. Commercial satellites delivered 80 percent of communications transmissions in Operation Iraqi Freedom, a flip-flop from the U.S. emphasis on military satellites 12 years earlier during Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait and Iraq.

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