JTRS costs leap higher

DOD Selected Acqusition Reports, April 2005

The price tag to develop software waveforms for the Joint Tactical Radio System jumped $339 million in the last quarter of 2004, according to a Defense Department report released last month.

That means JTRS waveform software has now cost $1.3 billion and overall program costs continue to increase. The quarterly Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) released by Michael Wynne, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the 34.5 percent increase in costs stemmed primarily from additional waveform development requirements. The report did not provide any additional details, but the Army has acknowledged that developing a networking waveform capable of supporting data rate up to 2 megabits/sec has been a hurdle for JTRS.

DOD launched the program in the late 1990s to develop a family of handheld, manpack, vehicle, aircraft and shipboard radios based on architecture that uses software waveforms to communicate on a wide range of frequencies at varying data rates. JTRS has gained a high level of scrutiny as program costs increased and development of production radios have slipped.

The Pentagon on April 26 sent Boeing, its prime contractor, a "show cause" letter, saying that the company’s contract may be terminated because of concerns the company will not meet cost, schedule and performance requirements. Boeing, under the JTRS Cluster 1 deal, is developing radios for use in Army and Marine Corps ground vehicles, Army helicopters and Air Force tactical aircraft control parties. The SAR report said total costs for JTRS Cluster 1 have spiraled from a base-year price tag of $15.1 billion to $21.6 billion.

Boeing isn’t the only company unable to control costs. General Dynamics’ JTRS Cluster 5 program, designed to develop handheld, manpack and embedded radios saw its program costs increase from baseline of $8.6 billion to $11 billion at the end of last year, the latest SAR report said.

This escalation in program costs translates into a high per-unit cost for JTRS radios, according to a briefing by J.D. Wilson, program manager for Joint Tactical Communications at the Marine Corps Systems Command. In his briefing, Wilson pegged the cost of JTRS Cluster 1 vehicle radios at $270,000 each and the cost of Cluster 5 handhelds at $10,000.

Robert Martinage, an analyst with the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C., said while the cost increases in the JTRS program may appear large, they “really are not out of line” with cost increases in other military programs. Martinage added that the JTRS program still faces significant technology challenges, including the need to incorporate some 20 “critical technologies which are not mature” into the radios.

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