JTRS office says streamlined development could save billions

A new, streamlined approach to developing the Joint Tactical Radio System could cut research and development costs from $4 billion to $6 billion, according to a study from the JTRS Joint Program Executive Office.

The Defense Department launched the program in the late 1990s with the goal of replacing 750,000 aging battlefield radios with about 180,000 software-defined radios capable of operating at multiple data rates across a wide swath of the frequency spectrum.

Much of the JTRS research has focused on developing software waveforms for radios designed to operate in discrete chunks of the spectrum. The waveforms could be incorporated into hardware used in fixed emplacements, as handheld devices, mounted on vehicles, carried in packs, and even in marine and airborne settings.

In its quarterly Selected Acquisition Reports, DOD disclosed in March that the cost of JTRS waveform development had jumped 35.2 percent, or $465.1 million, from September to December 2005, putting the total cost of waveform development at $1.8 billion.

The new approach moves the program away from its earlier 'big bang' acquisition strategy to an incremental approach, according to a press release issued today by the JTRS office.

The strategy will 'realistically deliver communications capabilities to the warfighter at lower cost, schedule and performance risk," the release states.

The JTRS office has already started to work on the first phase of the incremental approach, which will help it reduce overall program risk from high to moderate. DOD officials did not respond to requests to specify the types of development covered in the first phase.

In a presentation to an industry group last month, Vic Popik, director of operations for the JTRS office, made it clear that Increment 1 development is a complex task, involving 22 waveforms that will be incorporated into a wide variety of hardware for all four military branches.

Popik's presentation disclosed that a lead service will develop each hardware form factor and waveform following the office's guidelines for portability and interoperability.

In his presentation, Popik outlined the problems that have crippled JTRS development to date, including the unanticipated complexity of information assurance requirements.

Last week, Chris Brady, vice president of assured communication systems at General Dynamics C4 Systems, said the information security criteria that the National Security Agency imposed on JTRS radios represented a significant change for the program and required extensive hardware and software design work.

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