GAO questions Defense tactical radio program

The vision of the Joint Tactical Radio System program is to build an open architecture that will let warfighters'whether they are riding in combat vehicles, sitting at command posts or trudging the battlefield on foot' communicate over disparate systems.

But JTRS is still far from that reality, the General Accounting Office yesterday told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The challenges include inadequate requirements, poor funding management, low technology readiness, overaggressive testing schedules, lack of platform integration, inadequate security and lack of spectrum.

But in a letter to the committee's leaders, GAO did give the program credit for making progress in establishing a Joint Program Office. Still, much needs to be done in merging the military services' JTRS programs and funding, said Paul L. Francis, director of acquisition and sourcing management issues for GAO.

'The Joint Program Office is responsible for developing the communications architecture, radio waveforms and security components, while the services are primarily responsible for developing, acquiring and funding the actual radios,' Francis said. 'This structure, while preferable over individual service efforts, is still fragmented, making it difficult to resolve interservice differences involving requirements and funding.'

The letter was sent along with briefing materials based on a GAO review, Challenges and Risks Associated with the Joint Tactical Radio System Program.

The Defense Department agreed with most but not all of GAO's findings and recommendations.

'DOD concurs with the recommendation to strengthen the joint program management structure,' noted Michael S. Frankel, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications, space and IT programs, in a written response to GAO. 'DOD supports the consolidation of all related research, development, test and evaluation funding, but does not agree with the consolidation for procurement and integration funding.'

Frankel said Defense supports leaving JTRS procurement and funding to the individual services.

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