House bill would ease radio buys

The House Armed Services Committee added language to the 2006 Defense Authorization bill that would eliminate a Defense Department directive requiring the military services to file for a waiver from the Joint Tactical Radio System program office before making such purchases.

Committee members wrote in their report on the authorization bill, expected to be approved by the full House this week, that they have serious concerns about the JTRS Cluster 1 program managed by Boeing. The program has been criticized for delays, excessive costs and performance failures.

Boeing is developing radios for Army and Marine Corps ground vehicles, Army helicopters and Air Force teams that coordinate ground support air strikes under the company’s JTRS Cluster 1 contract.

Top Pentagon officials are reviewing that contract after they issued a show-cause letter last month that could lead to cancellation or modification of the deal. Total development costs for JTRS have now hit $32 billion, according to a DOD acquisition report released in April.

The JTRS program office has used the waiver process to limit purchases for existing systems to limit costs while it develops new, software-defined radios that can operate across multiple frequency bands at multiple data rates.

Dropping the waiver requirement would allow the services to purchase existing tactical radios to fulfill immediate needs, the committee’s report states. A shortage of tactical radios forced Army National Guard and Reserve units deployed to Iraq to buy commercial two-way radios from Radio Shack and other commercial outlets.

The committee bill also gave the JTRS Joint Program Executive Office at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command wide authority over the program, including control of research and development funding for all the JTRS clusters and waveform development.

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