Two may win WIN-T

In a change of Army acquisition strategy, General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. could work together to build the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) system, according to service and industry officials.

Rather than giving the entire project to one of the two teams bidding, Army officials are considering dividing the work between both integrators. "It's very possible one of the companies will serve as the lead and the other as the subdirect," said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer, who added that Defense Department officials are reviewing the service's WIN-T strategy and expect the decision to be made public soon.

Army officials may make the announcement as early as July 2, said an industry official who works for one of the bidding contractors. The officials originally planned to pick one of the companies to develop and field the $10 billion communications network for its future forces.

Boutelle emphasized that one company will oversee WIN-T. The industry official said that will likely be General Dynamics, but both companies may end up being paid the same. General Dynamics built the Army's current communications system, the 1980s-era Mobile Subscriber Equipment-Tri-Service Tactical terminal.

WIN-T will provide soldiers with more mobile communications through several platforms and sensors. The old tactical terminal could not keep pace with the widespread operations of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq last year. As a result, the Army had to rely on secure, commercial satellite communications.

Army officials decided to accelerate WIN-T in April. They originally planned to start deploying the system in 2008.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, announced in October that he wants weapons and communications systems deployed as soon as they become ready, rather than waiting for a complete solution. He said soldiers need the best equipment to wage the ongoing war on terrorism.

For example, the Third Infantry Division will start training with new mobile communications systems in August, some of which will be part of WIN-T. The new systems include voice over IP and small satellite terminals that provide large amounts of bandwidth. The satellite terminals will also allow logisticians to track parts more quickly and easily, Boutelle said during an interview today at the 2004 Army Information Technology Day, sponsored by AFCEA International.

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