- By Bob Brewin
- Sep 18, 2006
Air Force band outdoes Marine band online
As an aging jarhead, I hate to admit that the Air Force can outdo the Marines in anything, but the Air Force Band has definitely taken an online lead over the Marine Band.
The Air Force Band, which has its own AF Bandstand media player link on the Air Force Web site, www.af.mil, offers a variety of music, from traditional marches to jazz and blues. The performance schedule changes daily.
The Marine Band at www.marineband.usmc.mil has only a ceremonial CD available for downloading as MP3 files. I know the men and women at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., could do better in this online battle of the bands.
I suggest the Marine Band go high-brow and beat the Air Force back with some Bach from this fall’s chamber music series at George Washington Masonic National Memorial Auditorium in Alexandria, Va. Yes, Marines know Bach. Some of us even hum it while low crawling under concertina wire.
Not-ready-for-prime-time radio program
That title can only apply to the almost decade-old Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program, which the Government Accountability Office said fails the most basic objective of the program: low-cost software portability.
It turns out that porting software waveforms from one hardware radio platform to another could be more expensive than anyone envisioned, GAO said in a report released earlier this month. The cost of the entire JTRS project — if it ever comes to fruition — has jumped to $37 billion, an increase of about $7 billion from just a year ago.
GAO estimated total development costs for JTRS — that’s before any production radios leave a factory — at $5.5 billion, which is $2.1 billion more in the next five years than previously estimated.
Such staggering sums don’t provide any guarantee that JTRS can do what the program originally promised military users.
For example, development of the JTRS Wideband Networking Waveform, designed to support battlefield networks that operate at megabytes per second, will require writing more than 1.6 million lines of code.
But because of power requirements necessary to support handheld radios such as those ground combatants use, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command’s Joint Program Executive Office for JTRS is developing a new Soldier Radio Waveform that comes out of a science and technology program.
This science fair approach is also being applied to a Joint Airborne Network-Tactical Edge Waveform. The GAO report said program officials are concerned about porting waveforms developed in science and technology programs to meet the requirements of soldier and airborne radios. Efforts to rework such software for production radios could result in cost and schedule problems.
Delays are nothing new to JTRS, which should be renamed the Joint Cost and Schedule Problem System.
$11 billion legacy radio bill
That’s how much GAO said the Defense Department has spent since 1998 to buy legacy — a better term might be real — hardware radios.
DOD spent more than 10 percent of this sum — $1.3 billion — in 2005 and 2006 to buy VHF-FM Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (Singcars) equipment for troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some bought two-way mobiles from Radio Shack before the Singcars production spigots were turned on.
ITT has benefited mightily from those buys, as have some weird suppliers, such as Federal Prison Industries, which last year won a $113 million contract for Singcars radios. Heck, I think some of my neighbors in towns such as San Geronimo here in rural New Mexico are thinking about manufacturing Singcars radios in their barns.
What’s an FCS without JTRS?
Not much of anything. The Congressional Budget Office reported last month that the Army’s $128 billion transformational Future Combat Systems (FCS) program will require a total of 20,250 JTRS radios to equip all kinds of advanced battlefield platforms.
GAO said the recent restructuring of JTRS will enable it to meet the needs of FCS, but the Interceptor is not going to make a high-stakes bet on that prediction.
FCS has software and technology problems of its own. The programmers have to develop some 34 million lines of code to make sure the FCS parts work, the CBO reported.
And to think we defeated Japan and Germany in the Big One with nary a line of code.
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