Boeing gets JTRS notice

Defense Department officials may cancel a contract with Boeing for the Joint Tactical Radio System Cluster 1 program.

The Pentagon sent Boeing officials a "show cause" letter to notify them that the JTRS Cluster 1 deal may be terminated because of an anticipated failure to meet cost, schedule and performance requirements, said Army Lt. Col. Chris Conway, spokesman for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration and Chief Information Officer.

Boeing officials must send a letter within 30 days to Army officials managing the program at Fort Monmouth, N.J., to explain how they can execute the contract. After reviewing the letter, DOD and service officials can decide to terminate, restructure or continue the contract.

Army officials deferred comment to the DOD CIO's office. Boeing officials did not immediately respond to e-mails and telephone calls seeking comment.

Army officials awarded an $856 million contract to an industry team led by Boeing in 2002 to develop, test and build JTRS radios for Army, Marine Corps and Air Force tactical air control parties and for Army rotary-wing aircraft.

Of the $856 million, $573 million has been invested. DOD and Army officials could recoup $28 million of that if they terminate the program, said a department official.

The letter marks the second drastic step taken by DOD and Army officials this year related to JTRS amid concerns that the innovative radio may be behind schedule and over budget. In January, DOD officials told Boeing to stop work on future development to focus on short-term goals after company officials told them in December they would need more time and money to develop the radio.

DOD officials also changed the management structure of the JTRS program. Last week, department officials confirmed they chose Dennis Bauman, program executive officer for command, control, communications and intelligence and space at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Center, to lead a new program executive office that will oversee JTRS.

The multibillion-dollar system is actually a computer with a radio front end. DOD officials believe JTRS will help eliminate communications problems that result when warfighters using different radio bands cannot talk to one another. JTRS is being developed in parts, referred to as clusters.

DOD officials planned for the devices developed through the $6.8 billion JTRS program to replace existing tactical radios, which soldiers carry or mount on vehicles, aircraft and ships. Those 750,000 radios would be replaced with 180,000 software-defined radios, which could operate in battlefield environments and across a wide swath of the radio frequency spectrum.

DOD officials plan to test next month the JTRS radio developed by Boeing officials. Linton Wells, the department’s acting CIO, said in February he may tell Boeing officials to build and deliver the Cluster 1 radios in spirals so they can be delivered more quickly to troops in combat with new capabilities added as they become available.

Wells said he sent officials from the DOD CIO's office to meet with Boeing and Army officials in February to get a status report on Cluster 1. He declined to comment on how much more time and money Boeing officials might need until after his staff reports back to him. He did say, however, that he is disappointed with JTRS’ progress.


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