Boeing’s JTRS fate due soon

Boeing's date with destiny is looming. The Defense Acquisition Board plans to meet next week to decide whether the company will remain the prime contractor for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Cluster 1 program.

The board will likely decide to slightly amend the contract, said a Defense Department spokesperson who is knowledgeable of the situation but requested anonymity.

They will probably choose “to get a focus in more areas of the contract,” the spokesperson said.

The comments come after a July 20 story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Boeing will keep the JTRS Cluster 1 contract. The story cited an Army statement as the source, although the service has not officially issued a statement on its Web site.

Army spokesman Tim Rider said he is not familiar with the statement. Boeing officials did not return a call seeking comment. The DOD spokesperson said the department could issue a statement on the situation next week.

Pentagon officials sent Boeing a show-cause letter in April notifying the company they may terminate or restructure the JTRS Cluster 1 deal because of the company’s anticipated failure to meet cost, schedule and performance requirements. Boeing responded with a letter in May explaining the company wants to collaborate on a realistic plan to meet all program requirements.

Army officials awarded an $856 million contract to an industry team led by Boeing in 2002 to develop JTRS Cluster 1 radios for Army, Marine Corps and Air Force tactical air control parties and for Army rotary-wing aircraft. The contract includes the development of a radio architecture for the program. JTRS is being developed in four parts, called clusters, with Cluster 2 for special forces, Clusters 3 and 4 for Air Force aircraft and Navy ships, and Cluster 5 for warfighters to carry and wear.

Boeing officials told the Army in December that the company needed more time and money to develop the radio. Service officials told the company in January to stop work on future development and focus on short-term goals.

In April, Pentagon officials changed the management structure of the JTRS program. 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 all the clusters. He immediately began assessing them to synchronize cost, schedule and funding.

The once $6.8 billion program, now estimated at $32 billion, is a computer system using radios as an interface and operating across a wide swath of the radio frequency spectrum. The Pentagon wants to replace the 750,000 radios that warfighters carry or mount on vehicles, aircraft and ships — many of which use incompatible radio bands — with 180,000 software-defined radios that can be easily reprogrammed.

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