November 3, 2011

Discussing the JTRS GMR "graceful termination"

Here in this blog we already discussed about the JTRS GMR program termination (look here). As previously stated, 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. 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.

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.

In the recent days, a couple of interesting posts appeared on the blog of CJ Components (one and two), where David Howe provides additional insights on the fate of the program.

I have been following the JTRS Radio project for years. One time down at a Reality of Radio course at AFCEA I had the chance to see a real-time simulation of the JTRS network in action. At the time they were running a maximum of about 30 nodes. JTRS had been a project of about 15 years and was still short of network goals. The question I had, which I guess has been the question since inception of the project, was "Can the full network requirement of JTRS be met"?
Speaking before the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Oct. 26, 2011, Lt. Gen. William Phillips, principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology was asked about the cancellation of that program. "The Ground Mobile Radio went through a rigorous comprehensive review between the Army and the Secretary of Defense,” he explained. “That took about 60 days of intensive review of the program itself. Up front I will state that the GMR program itself is critical to the Army’s network strategy,” he said. “We must have a GMR radio that will run the Wideband Networking Waveform and the Soldier Radio Waveform – that’s absolutely critical. So when we say ‘termination,’ I’ll use these words: It’s a ‘graceful termination.’ The current contract is with Boeing. We are going to let that contract expire in March of ’12. And it will terminate on its own. We are not going to renew the contract.

Sir, at the end of the day this is positive for us,” he stated. “We will get this radio quicker. It will be at a lower cost than what the formal program would have delivered. And we will get it in what we call ‘Capability Set ‘13 – ’14’, so eight brigades that will deploy into combat operations will have a GMR radio running those two waveforms.”

A new RFP will be forthcoming for a 2-channel radio and the concept of putting the solution in the lap of industry will begin.

As the termination of the JTRS GMR was announced just a couple of days ago, the question of a possible affect on the JTRS HMS (Handheld Manpack Small Form Factor) naturally arose. I was in a meeting down at AUSA with the U.S. Army discussing desired tactical headsets and military handsets to be used with the PRC-154 and PRC-155 Rifleman Radios. I think this case is a bit different than the JTRS GMR, as GD has an award and is providing HMS radios to the Army. Yet, as with the JTRS GMR, could there be a similar move to transfer funding from public to industry?

Army leaders have testified before Congress about the importance of building a secure integrated network that connects soldiers on the battlefield, the letter states, noting that JTRS HMS radios connect the soldier to the network and WIN-T is the broadband wide-area transport of information to the network. “Without the JTRS HMS and WIN-T programs, there is no network modernization for our soldiers,” states the letter, which urges House appropriators to remain supportive of fully funding the efforts during the conference process.

References: CJ Components (1,2)

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