DOD goes for plain old IT

While the Defense Department preaches the doctrine of transformative technologies, the Pentagon's 2006 budget request also includes increased funding for plain vanilla Air Force and Army base and installation IT infrastructure projects and general purpose computer equipment.

The Army asked for $294.4 million in procurement funding for its Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program (IMP3). The project is designed to upgrade telephone switches, rehabilitate outside cable plants, install new routers and provide a common local area network at Army bases, with the 2006 budget marking the first time the Army has a separate line item for IMP3.

The service also seeks a slight increase in funding for general automated data processing equipment, to $152.3 million in the 2006 from $148 million in 2005.

The Air Force asked for a $15 million increase in its base information infrastructure program to $375 million in 2006 from $360 million in 2005. The service also sought $107 million in funding for base communications infrastructure in 2006, down slightly from $109.4 million in 2004. Under the heading "General Information Technology" in its procurements accounts, the Air Force wants a slight boost in 2006 spending to $111 million from $108 million in 2005.

The Navy wants $59.2 million for shore communications in 2006, up slightly from $56.7 million in 2005 and also asked for a $93 million increase in its ship communications procurement account to $254 million in 2006 from $161 million in 2005.

The Defense Information Systems Agency kept its operations and maintenance funding request for 2006 relatively flat for 2006, $1.045 billion versus $1.087 billion in 2005. DISA asked for a $54 million increase in its procurement account for 2006 to $202 million from $148 million in 2005, with the bulk of that increase allocated to the agency's teleport program, which oversees installations with multiple satellite dishes capable of accessing DOD and commercial satellites.

In the tactical systems arena the Army, as expected, took a big hit in its procurement accounts for the $6 billion departmentwide Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program, designed to develop common software waveforms and hardware, will replace practically all the radios currently used by all four services. Army officials zeroed out their procurement account budget request for JTRS in 2006 versus $109.2 million in 2005.

Linton Wells, the Pentagon's acting CIO, said last week he was "disappointed" in the progress the Army had made in development of radios for the JTRS Cluster One program led by the Army Communications-Electronics Command.

The Integrated Defense Systems unit of Boeing won the $2 billion JTRS Cluster One contract in June of 2002 for production of up to 106,000 JTRS radios for Army aircraft, ground vehicles and Air Force forward air controllers. At the time of the contract award, Boeing said it anticipated operational assessment testing in summer 2004 with low-rate initial production expected in 2005.

Wells declined to give any reason why he was disappointed with Cluster One, but industry sources who declined to be identified said the Army and Boeing are running as much as 30 months behind schedule. A spokeswoman for the Army CIO said she had no details on the budget action at this time, while a Boeing spokesman said he could not comment because the company has not reviewed the budget yet.

The Army fared better in its research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) request for JTRS. The Army's 2006 budget request includes $156.7 million in RDT&E funding for JTRS in 2006, up from $117.3 million in 2005. Adding in Air Force and Navy requests, the DOD wants $531.6 million in RDT&E funding for JTRS in 2006, or almost double the 2005 budget of $235.8 million.

DOD used the RDT&E accounts to push transformational technologies, including the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Cognitive Computing program with a budget request of $201 million in 2006, up over $50 million from 2005.

DARPA describes the cognitive computer program as a project to develop a system which could "reason, use represented knowledge, learn from experience, accumulate knowledge, explain itself, accept direction, be aware of its own behavior and capabilities as well as respond in a robust manner to surprises."

The proposed RDT&E budget also includes a request of $137 million for the net-centric warfare program versus $121.6 million in 2005 and $462.2 million for the information systems security program, up $10 million from 2005.

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