Jittery Over JTRS, Pentagon Puts Boeing on Notice
According to Federal Computer Weekly, Defense Department officials may cancel a contract with Boeing for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Cluster 1 program. Army Lt. Col. Chris Conway, spokesman for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration and Chief Information Officer, confirms that the Pentagon sent Boeing officials a “show cause” letter to notify them that the $856 million JTRS Cluster 1 deal may be terminated because of an anticipated failure to meet cost, schedule and performance requirements.
Boeing officials must send a letter within 30 days to Army officials managing the program at Fort Monmouth, NJ to explain how they can execute the contract. After reviewing the letter, U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and service officials can decide to terminate, restructure or continue the contract.
What Is JTRS?
The JTRS (often pronounced “jitters”) vision is one of seamless real-time wireless communications among warfighters – through voice, data, and video – with and across the US military services, and with coalition forces and allies.
Considered a pivotal Department of Defense (DoD) transformational program, the $6.8 billion Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Program is a Defense Department-wide initiative to develop a family of revolutionary software-programmable tactical radios that will provide the warfighter with voice, data and video communications using full, programmable interoperability. Current radio systems lack interoperability across the spectrum, and also lack the bandwidth to meet present and future communications challenges. JTRS envisions an all service radio that is essentially a computer with a radio front end, using a new wideband networked wireless waveform that could provide mobile networked-connectivity across the battlespace while providing compatibility with the current platforms in use by the DoD today.
JTRS would replace approximately 750,000 existing tactical radios carried by soldiers or mounted on vehicles, aircraft and ships with 180,000 software-defined, digital radio systems made up of swappable hardware modules. Software programmability would ensure easy upgrades, digital or analog exchange, simplified synchronization among jointly-operating units, and flexibility across the radio and networking spectrum that would include Internet Protocols.
JTRS is not a one-size-fits-all system, however; rather, it is a family of radios that are intended to be interoperable, affordable and scaleable. JTRS radios would range from low cost terminals with limited waveform support, to multi-band, multi-mode, multiple channel radios supporting advanced narrowband and wideband waveform capabilities and integrated computer networking features.
As such, its service requirements were “clustered” so that similar requirements can be met with a single acquisition effort. The lead service for each acquisition effort serves as the cluster manager.
The Cluster 1 Contract
Army officials awarded a six-year $856 million Cluster 1 contract to an industry team led by Boeing in 2002 to develop, test and build up to 20,000 JTRS radios for Army & Marines ground platforms, AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook and the H-60 Blackhawk family helicopters, and the Air Force Tactical Air Control Party. Boeing teammates included Northrop-Grumman Mission Systems (ground vehicle systems integration and network management) in Carson, CA; Rockwell Collins (waveform and hardware development) in Cedar Rapids, IA; and BAE Systems (waveform and hardware development) in Wayne, NJ with Harris RF Communications Division (hardware) in Rochester, NY.
The program had met milestone dates for a series of design reviews through December 03. The Congressional General Accountability Office, for instance, issued “Challenges and Risks Associated with the Joint Tactical Radio System Program GAO-03-879R” in August 2003, noting both strengths and weaknesses for the program. Since January 2004, however, evolving security requirements, known design changes and extended formal testing have added cost and schedule to the program.
The Boeing configuration faced size, weight and power issues in order to meet upgrades in performance and modifications in design. Defense agencies and the military services added requirements to the radios that caused the schedule delay and cost increase. The National Security Agency [NSA], for instance, requested changes in the JTRS security architecture that might delay delivery of JTRS Cluster 1 by up to two years. The JTRS Software Communications Architecture (JTRS SCA) originally applied to waveforms operating at frequencies from 2 MHz to 2,000 MHz, but in June 2003 the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Networks and Information Integration (ASD-NII) expanded the scope of the JTRS SCA to all waveforms operating at frequencies above 2,000 MHz. The planned JTRS Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) has also been a hurdle in developing the first cluster of JTRS. The WNW standard would cover a 6.2-mile range, and provide data transmit rates up 5 megabits/sec.
Pentagon Steps Taken
The letter marks the second drastic step taken by DoD and Army officials this year related to JTRS amid concerns that the innovative radio may be behind schedule and over budget.
After company officials told them in December 2004 that they would need more time and money to develop the radio, DoD officials told Boeing to halt work on future development of JTRS for at least six weeks in order to focus on short-term goals.
DoD officials also changed the management structure of the JTRS program. Last week, department officials chose Dennis Baumann, Program Executive Officer for command, control, communications and intelligence & space at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Center, to lead a new Program Executive Office that will oversee JTRS.
Recent testimony to Congress highlighted the extent of the problems the program has been causing when the Defense Department’s CIO assured congressional leaders that combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan will not be frustrated by a Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program policy that prohibits the services from buying existing radio systems without a waiver from the JTRS Joint Program Office. JTRS has not fielded deployable hardware since the program was started in 2001, forcing units to obtain waivers to buy radios urgently needed for combat requirements. The waiver process had resulted in some combat units going around the program office and the military procurement system entirely, and buying insecure civilian radios.
Of the $856 million slated for cluster 1, $573 million has already been invested. DoD and Army officials could recoup $28 million of that if they terminate the program.
JTRS capabilities were already intended to be developed and fielded in an evolutionary manner, in order to provide increasing capabilities as technology development and funding permits. Along those lines, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration Linton Wells said in February 2005 that he may tell Boeing officials to build and deliver the Cluster 1 radios in spirals so they can be delivered more quickly to troops in combat, with new capabilities added as they become available.
The JTRS Radio developed by Boeing’s team to date is scheduled to undergo testing in May 2005. Successful testing of the existing Cluster 1 system would allow the start of low-rate initial production of hardware in 2005.
The System Development & Demonstration phase for JTRS Cluster 1 will be a full and open competition, with a contract award anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2005. Future production quantities generated by the Cluster 1 program are expected to exceed 100,000 units.
Assuming that the program continues to go forward.
UPDATE: JTRS Restructured
The JTRS Program has now abandoned the service-led clusters approach and moved to a Joint Program Executive Office, with 4 centrally managed domains:
Ground: Inlcudes the vehicle-mounted cluster 1 program led by Boeing, and also the former HMS(Handheld, Manpack & Small form-fit) program led by General Dynamics in partnership with Thales that was in Cluster 5.
Airborne and Maritime: Includes both fixed (AMF) and MIDS-JTRS; formerly Clusters 3 & 4.
Special: Formerly Cluster 2, covers upgrading the existing hand-held PRC-148 MBITR radio used by Special Operations Command, to JTRS Software Communications Architecture compliance.
Network & Enterprise: Responsible for waveform development, cryptographic equipment applications, architectural integrity of JTRS, gateways and common network services.
DID’s “JTRS Program to Continue After Restructuring” has further coverage of the restructuring, including statistics that show the program’s reduced scope in cash and platform terms, and links to GAO assessments of the remaining issues.
JTRS Program Updates:
- JPEO JTRS (Jan 17/07) – JPEO JTRS Announces ‘Business Model’ for Certifying JTRS Radios [PDF format]
- Boeing (Oct 16/06) – Boeing Completes Successful AMF JTRS Preliminary Design Review. For its Airborne Maritime/Fixed Station JTRS program. Team members include BBN Technologies, Harris, L-3 Communications, Milcom Systems Corporation, Northrop Grumman and Rockwell Collins. The U.S. Air Force is expected to award the design and development phase contract in early 2007.
- Lockheed Martin (Oct 16/06) – Lockheed Martin Completes Key AMF JTRS Design Review Ahead Of Schedule. Also for the Airborne Maritime/Fixed Station JTRS sub-program
- US Government Accountability Office (#GAO-06-955, Sept 11/06) – Restructured JTRS Program Reduces Risk, but Significant Challenges Remain
- DID (Aug 23/06) – Problems Forecast for BOWMAN System in NAO Report. Britain’s NAO offers some food for thought re: the long term expense of NOT doing it the JTRS way of software waveforms instead of hardware and not asking for the level of future upgradeability the USA seeks.
- DID (July 28/06) – JTRS Program to Continue After Restructuring. DID describes that restructuring, which does away with the previous “clusters” approach. JTRS will now have 4 centrally managed domains (Ground, Airborne and maritime – which is divided into Fixed stations and “MIDS, Network enterprise, and Special radio systems”).
- JPEO JTRS (July 11/06) – MIDS JTRS Completes CDR. CDR = Critical Design Review, and MIDS-JTRS is the next generation of Link 16 products for aircraft, air defense systems, ships, and more. MIDS-JTRS now proceeds into final integration and limited production, with qualification testing expected in early 2007.
- DID (Feb 1/06) – Boeing Delivers Initial JTRS Cluster 1 Units to FCS. The 50 or so radios to be delivered by mid-summer will begin replacing computer emulators in other Future Combat Systems projects, so their developers can start testing the passage of information through the radios and assessing compatibility. Some of the radios will also be used in support of FCS experimentation activities.
- DID (Jan 27/06) – $312M to Install ARC-231 Skyfire Radios in US Army Helicopters (updated). Used because JTRS isn’t ready.
- DID (Nov 9/05) – JTRS Program Breaking Up?
- DID (July 29/05) – Less Ambitious Goals Ahead for JTRS?
- DID (July 28/05) – $53.9M from USN for 81 more Digital Modular Radios. Includes some JTRS capabilities.
- DID (June 14/05) – AMF JTRS: Team Lockheed Passes System Design Review. AMF = Airborne, Maritime, and Fixed-station versions.
- DID (June 13/05) – Harris Corp. Rising as Tactical Radio Market Grows. And may be one of the first in line to offer substitutes if JTRS fails.
- DID (May 16/05) – JTRS Radio Costs Rising Rapidly. The price tag to develop software waveforms for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) jumped $339 million in the last quarter of 2004, according to a U.S. Defense Department report.
- DID (May 16/05) – Israel Aims for Net-Centric Warfare with the Tsayad Program. A less ambitious example that shows how others are tackling the problem and using software-defined waveforms. Considered very successful, but some Israeli commanders are wondering if the investment required ended up coming at the expense of other critical areas.
- Defense Tech (April 29/05) – “Jitters,” Broken Down. JTRS Cluster 5 is also having difficulties, and the Army is looking at substitutes in order to fulfil its needs on several weapons systems. Including Netfires, a.k.a. “Missile-in-a-Box”
Additional Reading & Sources
- Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Networks and Information Integration (ASD-NII)
- JTRS Program Site has now moved from a detailed site of its own to a small and perfunctory mini-site within SPAWAR. See esp. their JTRS Domains PDF.
- Military & Aerospace Electronics – Software-defined radio and JTRS.
- NDIA National Defense (September 2010) – Army Under Pressure to Bring Broadband to the Battlefield. Discusses JTRS rather than AEHF, but illustrates the wider trends and pressures.
- JPEO-JTRS (May 5/06) – Joint Program Executive Office, Joint Tactical Radio SystemMIDS International Review Board: JTRS – Moving Forward [PDF]
- GlobalSecurity.org – GlobalSecurity.org: JTRS
- Armada Magazine (May 2001) – Radio Families on the Tactical Scene. Excellent overview of various radio families, including a look at the trend of software-defined radios.
- Boeing JTRS Cluster 1 Page
- GlobalSecurity.org – GlobalSecurity.org: JTRS Airborne
- DID – JTRS: Airborne & Maritime Awards
- National Defense Magazine (Feb 2007) – Delays in ‘joint tactical radio’ program cast doubts on future. This excerpt sums it up: “Army officials would like to have the advanced JTRS radios, but they have to wait so long to get them that they prefer to buy proven legacy technology or commercially developed software radios. But the more money that goes into these alternatives to JTRS, the less likely that the program will get off the ground. Troops on the ground in Iraq, meanwhile, remain encumbered by the lack of radio interoperability between services – a problem that JTRS was
- Joint Program Executive Office, Joint Tactical Radio System (May 5/06) – Presentation to MIDS International Review Board: JTRS – Moving Forward [PDF]
- COTS Journal (April 2006) – JTRS: Reloaded, Rescoped
- Federal Computer Weekly (April 27/05) – Boeing Gets JTRS Notice
- eDefense Online (March 21/05) – Alternatives Sought Amid JTRS Delays
- Washington Technology (June 9/03) – Pentagon Backs Spiral Development
- JTRS Program Site: Clusters Overview [defunct]
- JTRS Program Site: Software Communications Architecture (JTRS SCA) [defunct]