October 18, 2011

JTRS GMR: program terminated

News Report

As announced by InsideDefense.com and then reported by several other news sources, the US Defense Department communicated that the US Army's Joint Tactical Radio System Ground Mobile Radio program (JTRS GMR) has been terminated.

"I can confirm the program has been terminated," said Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman. A notice from Frank Kendall, the acting under secretary for acquisition, was sent to the House of Representatives' and Senate Armed Services Committees on last Thursday night, she said.

The System

The Joint Tactical Radio System, Ground Mobile Radios (JTRS GMR) is a software-programmable radio system providing secure, reliable, multi-channel voice, data, imagery and video communications for mobile military users. The system was expected to deliver networked communications on-the-move at the tactical edge supporting information sharing and combat readiness between service branches.

The JTRS is built on the Software Communications Architecture (SCA), an open-architecture framework that tells designers how hardware and software are to operate in harmony. It governs the structure and operation of the JTRS, enabling programmable radios to load waveforms, run applications, and be networked into an integrated system. A Core Framework, providing a standard operating environment, must be implemented on every hardware set. Interoperability among radio sets is increased because the same waveform software can be easily ported to all radios.

The Object Management Group (OMG), a not-for-profit consortium that produces and maintains computer industry specifications for interoperable enterprise applications, is working toward building an international commercial standard based on the SCA.

The US Army hasn’t released its most current assessment of the radio, which was scrutinized this year in a six-week Network Integration Evaluation field exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, with other JTRS radios. In a systems integration test last year, the radio “continued to demonstrate deficiencies” it had in 2009, including difficulty establishing a network and low message completion rates, the Pentagon’s director of operational testing reported.

The Context

Boeing is the prime contractor for the JTRS GMR program. Other team members include Northrop Grumman (ground vehicle systems integration and network management), Rockwell Collins (waveform and hardware development), BAE Systems (waveform and hardware development), Harris (hardware).

The JTRS program has been beset by delays and cost overruns. Problems included a decentralized management structure, changing requirements, and unexpected technical difficulties that increased size and weight goals that made it harder to add the required waveforms. Large cost overruns and numerous schedule delays forced the US Army's hand in canceling the JTRS Ground Mobile Radio system. To that end, US DoD has told Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor of the air and sea version of JTRS, to restructure that program with an eye toward affordability.

The program has been canceled in line with the Nunn-McCurdy statute, which calls for a program's termination once unit-procurement costs exceed the original estimate by 25 percent unless it is deemed essential to national security. Concerning the JTRS GMR program, the statute was triggered after the planned purchase was slashed over the summer from 86,209 radios to 10,293. That reduction caused the radio’s unit price to rise by more than 50 percent, triggering the cost reporting law.

The US Army now plans to conduct a full and open competition early next year for a lower-cost alternative, said Major Christopher Kasker, a US Army spokesman. US Army spokesmans also reiterated that the backbone of the Army's networking strategy will be the waveforms and not the specific hardware transmitting them.

References: InsideDefense.com (1), Chicago Tribune (2), GAO (3), Boeing (4), AOL Defense (5), Bloomberg (6)

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