By Mr. Kris Osborn, ASA(ALT)October 18, 2011
The Pentagon, Army and Joint Program Executive Office Joint Tactical Radio
Systems (JPEO JTRS) are transitioning their approach to the JTRS Ground
Mobile Radios (GMR) program by launching a new, Non-Developmental Item (NDI)
effort designed to procure lower-cost, commercially-available radios able to
meet JTRS GMR requirements, service officials said.
At the same time, technical advances in radio size, weight and power
consumption have inspired some requirements changes and made it possible for
industry to produce improved, more-efficient GMR "like" capability at lower
costs, said Brig. Gen. Michael Williamson, JPEO JTRS.
Software-programmable JTRS radios, which can make use of encryption to
safeguard information, are built to send IP packets of data, voice, video
and images via multiple waveforms between static command centers, vehicles
on-the-move and even dismounted individual Soldiers on patrol.
The strategy is consistent with a new, more "agile" approach to acquisition
which aims to lower costs and deliver capability more quickly by at times
blending commercial-off-the-shelf solutions with formal programs of record,
said Ms. Heidi Shyu, Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition,
Logistics and Technology.
"We want to increase competition because that encourages innovation and
brings lower costs. Our adversaries are very adaptive, so our acquisition
process has to be agile. We understand that in order to attain this agility
we need mature technologies," Shyu explained.
This NDI effort is designed to harness years of investment and technological
progress associated with JTRS GMR development and procure available radios
that can transmit information using high bandwidth, non-proprietary
waveforms such as Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) and Soldier Radio
Waveform (SRW) able to move voice, video, data and images across the force
in real time.
SRW is targeted for the individual Soldier, individual small units and
sensors; WNW can move information longer distances and is designed for
technologies such as Aerostat blimps, vehicles and mobile command posts.
Both waveforms can contribute greatly to the creation of a mobile, ad-hoc
terrestrial network able to connect dismounted units in austere, forward
locations to other units and up to higher echelons of command.
"The key piece is that we have waveforms that deliver capability. Now, as
part of this evolution we are going to go back out to industry and say 'can
you deliver these waveforms at a lower cost?'" said Williamson.
The maturation of these waveforms combined with technical advances in the
radio market make the NDI approach a positive step forward for the Army,
"What we have done is develop non-proprietary waveforms. Radio manufacturers
that want to leverage this do not have to start from scratch and develop
their own waveform. They can port the waveform we have tested and developed
onto their radio so we can achieve the interoperability," Shyu said.
Similar to the GMR radios, the NDI solutions will be able to better network
the force by using WNW and SRW to move information and connect units
on-the-move to one-another. Many of the proposed radio solutions will have
two channels, and the new radios will also be backward compatible with
legacy or existing radios already in use across the services such as Single
Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) and Enhanced Position
Location Reporting System (EPLRS) radios.
A formal RFP asking industry to propose technical solutions to meet the NDI
requirements is expected in the coming weeks, Williamson said.
The NDI effort emerged as a result of a comprehensive analysis of the JTRS
GMR program conducted by the Army and the Secretary of Defense. When a
decrease in the planned purchase quantity of GMR radios triggered a rise in
unit cost and subsequent Nunn McCurdy Breach, the Department of Defense
decided not to re-certify the program, thus clearing a path for the Army to
pursue lower cost, effective and secure alternatives within the available
"This approach allows us to get a lower-cost solution faster than we would
have been able to had we stuck with the original program," said Lt. Gen.
Bill Phillips, Principal Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army -
Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. "There are many companies that have
the ability to deliver GMR-like radios."
The existing GMR contract with Boeing will expire in March 2012, paving the
way for the NDI approach to acquire, test and deliver new radios by 2014 or
earlier, Phillips said; the JPEO JTRS program is planning on a full and
open competition for the new radios.
The JTRS program office estimates that GMR's ten-year development has
incurred approximately $1.6 billion in Research and Development investment.
Also, the NDI competition will leverage the Army's ongoing work with Network
Integration Evaluations at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., wherein emerging
technologies are placed in the hands of Soldiers with a mind to gaining
useful feedback, performing needed integration and evaluating capabilities
in a combat-relevant environment before they are sent to theater, Shyu and
"I believe this is a good news story. My view is that in the acquisition
business we are supposed to deliver the best capability possible but under
the constraints of the fiscal environment. The work that was done over the
GMR program of record set the conditions for industry to be able to expend
its own research and development dollars to build a more efficient and
effective radio," Williamson said.