DOD directive pushes single radio system with programmable software technology

The Defense Department has put the brakes on the military services’ multiple radio
programs in favor of a single family of radio communications systems that will incorporate
programmable software technology.


Arthur Money, the senior civilian official in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of
Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, late last month issued a
directive to service acquisition executives banning the services from developing or buying
tactical radio systems. Money said DOD wants to minimize new radio programs and merge
existing ones into a single program.


He said the new departmentwide program for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS)
potentially is worth $9 billion.


“No broad agency announcements, requests for information or requests for proposals
will be released unless approval is granted by the ASD(C3I),” Money said in his memo.


“This policy is not intended to disrupt current equipment production scheduled for
platform installation, however, no preplanned product improvements or in-service
modifications should be undertaken that duplicate JTRS planned capabilities,” he
said.


DOD, as recommended in the Quadrennial Defense Review, initiated the JTRS program in
September 1997 to develop a single family of radios to replace more than 700,000
service-unique and incompatible radio systems. The first and simplest JTRS radios will
likely be available in 2000, according to DOD’s 2000 to 2005 Defense Planning
Guidance.


But changing from the department’s legacy radio systems to JTRS will not be
painless for the services, DOD officials acknowledged. To ease the process, ASD(C3I) will
let the services buy gap-filler radios—a strategy opposed by the General Accounting
Office.


GAO last month recommended that DOD cut almost $11 million from the Army’s $17.3
million fiscal 1999 budget request for its Near-Term Digital Radio (NTDR) program.


“These funds were requested for the continued development of the Near-Term Digital
Radio. However, DOD’s goal is to minimize the number of service-unique tactical
radios,” GAO said. “Therefore, it appears that the Army’s plan to develop a
service-unique interim radio for the digital battlefield is in conflict with DOD’s
strategy.”


Army officials, however, argued that NTDR plays a critical role in the service’s
effort to digitize the battlefield and is needed to support the first digitized division,
which the Army plans to field in 2000.


The Army said it cannot wait for JTRS radios. The service also argued that the
networked wideband data waveform radios being developed for NTDR will give DOD insights
into technology that will benefit the JTRS program.


Money agreed and is letting the Army buy approximately 174 NTDRs from ITT Defense and
Electronics Aerospace and Communications of Fort Wayne, Ind., as a proof-of-concept for
brigade-level backbone communications.


ASD(C3I) also authorized the Navy to proceed with its basic Digital Modular Radio
contract. This year and next, the service plans to put in place 551 channels, or 15
percent of the Navy’s total radio lines. The Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems
Command in San Diego issued an RFP for DMR in March.


Money, however, has forbidden the Navy to make any DMR buying commitments beyond next
year. The JTRS Joint Program Office must review and provide recommendations to ASD(C3I) on
further buys, he said.


As for the Air Force’s Airborne Integrated Terminal Group (AITG) radios, the new
joint program office will annually review the current contract the service has with
Raytheon Co., Money said.  

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