DOD shakes up JTRS program

New plan centralizes control of tactical radio system within three domains

JTRS is a set of next-generation, software-programmable radios expected to replace more than two dozen legacy radios and be integrated on aircraft, vehicles, ships and fixed ground stations worldwide. The radios will be able to access maps and other visual data, communicate via voice and video with other units, and obtain information directly from battlefield sensors.

Key Components of the Acquisition Decision Memorandum:

  • Creates a family of software radios with three domains'ground; airborne, maritime and fixed; and network enterprise

  • Authorizes the Joint Program Executive Officer for JTRS to release request for proposals for the Soldier Radio Waveform and the Airborne Maritime and Fixed programs

  • Directs the JPEO to develop gateway architectures for the Wideband Networking Waveform, Soldier Radio Waveform, the Joint Airborne Network-Tactical Edge and the Mobile User Objective System.

What is a Waveform?

The entire set of radio functions that occur from user input to radio frequency output. DOD is developing for JTRS:
  • The Wideband Networking Waveform, which will be completed in 2008

  • The Soldier Radio Waveform, currently under a contract awarded by the Army's Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. The contract will be transitioned to a Joint Program Executive Office JTRS contract, with an anticipated request for proposals release

  • Joint Airborne Networking-Tactical Edge, which is a new waveform that will build upon the development of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Tactical Targeting Networking Technology waveform. This will also be transitioned to a JPEO future contract

  • Mobile User Objective System, which is a waveform in development by the Navy's Program Executive Office for Space Systems and will be available in late 2008.

Sources: Acquisition Decision Memorandum, the JTRS Joint Program Executive Office, and the Government Accountability Office

After at least a year of criticism, the Pentagon is reshaping its controversial Joint Tactical Radio System program with an eye toward curbing costs and centralizing management.

The Defense Department's acquisition chief recently restructured JTRS to create an enterprisewide structure comprising three domains: ground; airborne, maritime and fixed (AMF); and network enterprise, each reporting to the JTRS Joint Program Executive Office under Kenneth Krieg, Defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. Krieg signed off on the plan March 31 when he signed a memorandum, which was first obtained by Inside the Army.

JTRS, the software-programmable radios that will be outfitted for troops, ground and air vehicles, ships, and fixed locations, previously was made up of clusters managed separately and disjointedly by the services. This led to concerns from lawmakers and the Government Accountability Office that the multibillion-dollar program would run over cost and behind schedule.

The objective of the centralized structure is to bring a networking capability to warfighters more quickly and cheaply.

Krieg also slowed the development of JTRS to control risk and gave JPEO the green light to release requests for proposals for two initiatives, the Soldier Radio Waveform and the system development and demonstration phase of the AMF program.

'The original development approach was considered a 'big bang' strategy, which was changed into an incremental approach to mitigate potential cost, schedule and performance risk,' said JPEO spokesperson Steven A. Davis.

'The new acquisition and development approach is divided into phases called increments, the first of which has already begun. Because the incremental approach will enable JTRS to meet requirements within established cost and time limits, overall program risks associated with the initial big-bang approach have been lowered,' Davis added.

JTRS will make up one of the communications layers of the Defense Department's Global Information Grid, a set of interconnected classified and unclassified programs and systems comprising communications satellites, next-generation radios, a bandwidth-expanded network, a group of net-centric core services and an information assurance layer.

Delays and overruns

For more than a year, several of the JTRS clusters were beset with schedule delays and budget overruns.

In a report last summer, GAO said JTRS' Cluster One and Cluster Five would cost a combined $24.1 billion in development and fielding costs. Under the reorganization, both clusters now fall under the Ground Mobile Radio program.

GAO also predicted that if the JTRS program were not restructured, it would lack clearly defined requirements, and face technical maturation challenges and stringent time frames.

Lawmakers also have been skeptical of the program. In the fiscal 2006 National Defense Authorization Act conference report, lawmakers questioned 'the structure and inability of the Department of Defense to deliver [a] software programmable radio.'
But members endorsed a plan to give the JPEO more management oversight.

'The conferees ... believe the JPEO should have the authority to successfully manage a program of this size and cost, once the JTRS program is re-evaluated and restructured by the secretary,' according to the report.

Last year, the Defense Department even put a temporary stop-work order on JTRS Cluster One until it could decide whether to move forward with the program. That order has since been lifted.

But Davis said the restructuring would help address technology maturation issues.
In the reorganization memo, Krieg instructed JTRS JPEO Dennis Bauman to outline a plan to designate key acquisition positions.

The staffing plan, which must be approved by the services, was due to Krieg late last month, but Bauman's office said it still needed to be discussed with the services.

Bauman also works as the Navy's program executive officer for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and space.

Krieg also instructed Bauman to:
  • Present a schedule for submitting acquisition strategies for Krieg's approval for each of the JTRS domain product lines

  • Work with DOD's director of operational test and evaluation to collaborate on a schedule to provide product line test and evaluation master plans, to be approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense

  • Collaborate with industry, the services and the Special Operations Command on gateway network management

  • solutions and architectures for the Wideband Networking Waveform, the Soldier Radio Waveform, the Joint Airborne Network-Tactical Edge and the Mobile User Objective System
  • Identify and develop a common standard for JTRS product lines to ensure future increments can operate on the Global Information Grid

  • Develop a JTRS enterprise network manager.

The restructuring came about after a series of Defense Acquisition Board program meetings between August and November of last year.

'A key to the successful execution of the JTRS program is to ensure effective management and control by the JPEO of all resources made available for JTRS developmental efforts,' Krieg said in the memo. 'To that end, the JPEO will develop and identify all program resource issues for JTRS and present those issues to the JTRS Board of Directors.'

JTRS will field software-programmable radios that provide multichannel voice, data, imagery and video communications.

JTRS radios can be upgraded with new software via a wireless information network and are expected to provide data rates hundreds of times faster than existing communications systems.

The radios, which will be integrated on aircraft, vehicles, ships and fixed ground stations worldwide, will replace more than 25 types of military radios in use.

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