The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) is seeking to halt all funding to the Army’s battlefield network development program until it has more information on the cost and implementation schedule of the system.
In its version of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) published July 11, SASC makes official the recent concern over the cost and development schedule of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). WIN-T is meant to provide secure, on-the-go internet services to deployed forces through satellites, fixed command posts and mobile, vehicle-mounted antennas.
The Army’s fiscal year 2018 budget includes $420 million to continue WIN-T development and fielding.
“No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available for fiscal year 2018 for … the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), Increment 2 (Inc 2) program may be obligated or expended until the Secretary of the Army submits the report required under subsection (b),” the SASC bill reads.
The subsection specifies that the Army should submit a report on how it plans to comply with recommendations made by the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation related to “air-land ad-hoc mobile tactical communications and data networks” that was required by the 2016 NDAA.
The relevant section of that law “requires the Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to seek to enter into a contract with a federally funded research and development center to conduct a comprehensive assessment of current and future requirements and capabilities of the Army with respect to air-land ad-hoc, mobile tactical communications and data networks.”
CAPE conducted a comprehensive assessment of WIN–T to determine the technological feasibility, achievability, suitability, and survivability of a tactical communications and data network and was directed to submit the report with the budget request for fiscal 2019. A spokesman for the Army's Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) said the CAPE report is complete but findings are not publicly available.
The Army has spent a total $5 billion on WIN-T and is expected to spend an additional $9 billion to complete development and fielding, according to the SASC bill report, also published July 11. Total "sunk and projected costs" for the system are as high as $66 billion, the bill report says.
"The committee has observed many problems with the network in general and WIN–T in particular. This is especially so in regard to Inc 2," the SASC bill report says.
The committee singles out problems connecting WIN-T - the "upper network" - with software-defined radios that make up the "lower tactical network." It also points out that WIN-T has not yet been integrated into armored brigade combat teams and that the Army has no concrete plans to do so.
"These problems disrupt connectivity between brigade combat teams and battalions with companies," the bill report says. "The committee is concerned about the continued suitability, effectiveness, security, and survivability of Army Air-Land Mobile Tactical Communications and Data Network and WIN–T given demonstrated threat capabilities of peer adversaries in electronic warfare attack, electronic reconnaissance, and massed fire strikes."
WIN-T Increment 1 is the Army’s enterprise network that supports command posts from division to battalion with satellite connectivity all the way back to commanders in the continental United States. A command post equipped with Increment 1 must be stationary to deploy the network.
Increment 2, comprised of the same capability in a smaller package, provides the same satellite connectivity down to the company level and connects to individual soldier networking radios that are within line-of-sight of a WIN-T communication node.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley has ordered a review all the Army’s entire tactical network, including WIN-T, to assess whether the multi-billion-dollar system was worth the investment and if it is meeting requirements as fielded. Milley said he expects the report by mid-July and wants to use its findings to finalize the Army’s budget request within the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill.
WIN-T came under direct fire during a SASC hearing last month by panel Chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). During the hearing, McCain told Milley that recent test data led him to lump WIN-T in with other notorious Army development failures.
“The Army’s modernization woes are undoubtedly connected to the service’s disastrous acquisition record over the last two decades,” he said. “Some of us feel frustrated. It’s hard for us to continue to fight for more money in the Defense budget when we see $6 billion wasted on one program.”
The SASC bill does not recommend cancellation of any Army network programs, but suggests Milley and other Army officials use new acquisition authorities to address capability shortfalls and speed fielding.
"The committee continues to encourage the Army to repair identified problems and to more carefully redefine its requirements for the network and WIN–T program," the bill report says. "The committee further encourages the Army to leverage its new acquisition authorities to seek non-developmental technologies to repair and improve the network. This effort is key given investments to date."