Army negotiates network deal a year ahead of schedule

Army CIO Lt. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle says the advanced schedule will let the service ship new comm tools to Iraq shortly.

Henrik G. de Gyor

The Army is proceeding with a revised acquisition strategy for its $10 billion Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program, naming General Dynamics Corp. as the prime contractor and Lockheed Martin Corp. as the major subcontractor.

Both companies had been competing for the design and development contract since September, working on models and simulations of prototype WIN-T systems.

Several months ago, the Army decided to revise its WIN-T plan to deploy some capabilities to warfighters ahead of schedule. A spokesman said the contract language had been fine-tuned by the Defense and Justice departments over the past few months.

'Soldiers will benefit from this combined effort because it opens the door for the latest in IT to be fielded where real-time, quality information is most highly valued'with our deployed and combat-ready units,' said Col. Angel Colon, WIN-T project manager.

Under the new strategy announced last week, the contractors will work together to build the network, rather than as competing WIN-T teams, Colon said.

The Army benefits because the two vendors will merge the best of their approaches into a single system. Michael Wynne, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, authorized the agreement Sept. 10.

'This combined ef-fort will allow us to settle on the WIN-T network architecture within the next four months,' Colon said in a statement.

The Army plans to make WIN-T its tactical extension of DOD's Global Information Grid. Through the program, the service intends to roll out a high-speed, high-bandwidth infrastructure for wired and wireless voice, data, video and image communications for soldiers on the battlefield.

WIN-T will be the backbone of the Army's Future Combat Systems initiative to connect weapons and transport systems via a single network.

'The single-baseline approach also provides a single focus for other interdependent developmental efforts, including the Future Combat Systems and Joint Tactical Radio System,' said Don Keller, project director for WIN-T.

The Army originally had planned to award the development deal late next year but asked DOD for permission to speed up the process to bolster current combat capabilities, especially in Iraq.

In July, Army CIO Lt. Gen. Steven W. Boutelle said he was pushing for the advanced schedule so that new comm tools could be sent to Iraq shortly.

For example, Boutelle said, he hoped to have a voice over IP system available when the 3rd Infantry Division returns to Iraq later this year.

WIN-T will replace the 1970s-era Tri-service Tactical Communications system still used by signal battalions.

Rob Doolittle, spokesman for General Dynamics, said it's too early to determine what technology the contractors will use to build the network

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