The Army plans to move out swiftly to acquire a new Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Ground Mobile Radio (GMR) once a signed Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) from DoD’s top acquisition official is in hand, a top service acquisition official said.

“You’ll see that very rapidly now that we’ve got this decision,” Lt. Gen. William (Bill) Phillips, principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition Logistics and Technology) and director, Acquisition Career Management, told Defense Daily yesterday.

Frank Kendall, acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, will issue an ADM allowing the Army to move forward with a new acquisition program. Kendall on Oct. 13 notified Congress as required outlining the cost increases and reasoning behind the termination of the Boeing [BA]-led GMR effort (Defense Daily, Oct. 17).

The Army will then issue a request for proposals for industry to offer their solutions for a GMR radio that will run the Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) and the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW).

“What this allows us to do is to go after a lower cost faster solution leveraging what commercial industry provides for us–we know they can deliver this radio,” Phillips said.

“We’re going to utilize the network integration evaluation, the NIE, to be able to test the radios,” he said. “This is really a step in the direction of agile acquisition–it’s very powerful for the Army to be able to do this.”

“While it is not yet clear if a new GMR solution could be part of the spring NIE 12.2, the Army’s intent is to put potential radios into as early an NIE time frame as possible–some solutions might possibly be ready for the spring NIE, he said.

“It is a critical step for us to be able to get a ground mobile radio that can run those software waveforms (WNW and SRW), which is critical to the network inside a brigade combat team,” he said.  

GMR connects the brigade all the way  to the platoon and company level and to soldiers who carry the Rifleman radio, and with WNW and SRW connect to the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, which connects the brigade to division, corps and theater.

General Dynamics [GD] produces both Rifleman radio and WIN-T. 

Last spring, the GMR program incurred cost growth of more than 50 percent, triggering a Nunn McCurdy breach of acquisition baseline thresholds. This required the program be certified as a national security need with no viable alternatives.

The Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) conducted a comprehensive JTRS GMR program review over a period of months, for example, determining the proximate cause of the breach was the reduction of the number of radios from more than 86,000 to some 10,000, causing unit costs to skyrocket. At the conclusion of the review, both the Army and Kendall, as the decision official, agreed it was best to terminate the program, which would clear the path for the Army to pursue that low-cost effective solution that delivers the right kind of radios that the Army needs.

“It’s a graceful termination,” Phillips said. The contract will continue through March 2012, its normal completion date. This allows Boeing to achieve the goals set out in the original contract and to complete National Security Agency certification on the radio itself.

The decision could have been to terminate the program now, but Phillips said, “Mr. Kendall and the Army, we both thought it was best to continue through NSA certification, get the box certified by the appropriate agency and then leverage industry’s abilities to capitalize on that. That’s going to greatly reduce the cost of the radios when you already have that NSA certification.”

Additionally, the Army will be able to leverage all the data collected on the GMR program, he said. Phillips said he personally spoke to Boeing senior leadership on this point and Boeing will help the Army in every way possible to make sure that the program is a success.

“We have to make it a success, because we’ve invested so much time and money in the GMR,” Phillips said. “We’ve invested $1.6 billion in the GMR program so we’re going to leverage that investment and leverage what commercial industry can provide us and buy the radios that are going to help us build the network. And this strategy allows us to do it a lot quicker.”

Meanwhile, the Army did its market research and knows there are a number of commercial vendors that can build a GMR radio. “They can build to our revised specifications and they can deliver it cheaper and faster than what we could have gotten under the formal (GMR) program,” Phillips said.

The key is the service-developed the networking waveforms, WNW and SRW, that can be used by essentially any software-defined radio.

Industry will be required to use WNW and SRW to operate within the network capability the Army is building and will allow the service to reach back and use legacy waveforms such as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) and the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS).

Phillips said, “We’re going away from proprietary waveforms and want to move toward our network solution that includes WNW and SRW.”

The Army will have the funds for the acquisition, and is already working with Congress and OSD. “The reception we’ve gotten from everyone so far…this is very positive in terms of the Army strategy going forward to buy the least cost, the most capable radio that we can and to get it quicker in support of the Army’s network strategy,” he said.

 “If I could emphasize one thing it would be that these GMR radios are critical to our ability to build the Army’s network especially inside the brigade combat teams. It will greatly enhance our capabilities and the capabilities of units and soldiers down range.”