The Army is incorporating competition in various ways for most of the nine tactical networking acquisition programs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) scrutinized, though recommendations were not made in the GAO letter report released Friday.

Rifleman Radio

Photo: General Dynamics

The Army has declared its tactical network as its top modernization priority and estimated the modernization may cost up to $3 billion per year into the foreseeable future. The Army’s current modernization approach is intended to leverage solutions developed by private industry.

Given the costs and importance of the network, GAO was asked to examine aspects of the Army’s effort to acquire network capabilities. This is the third report in response to the Hour Committee on Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee requests.

The Army has decreased the amount of in-house system development it is doing for tactical networking equipment and is using various tools to involve private industry to meet its needs, said the May 29 report: Army Networks: Select Programs Are Utilizing Competition To Varying Degrees (GAO-14-460).

Federal agencies generally are required to award contracts competitively to get the best return on the government’s investment.

One such tool is the agile capabilities life cycle process where the Army determines the capabilities it needs and gaps in those capabilities and then uses market research and semi-annual evaluations, among other means, to involve industry.

According to the Army, this agile process provides opportunities for enhancing competition.

The Army acquisition strategy for eight of the nine systems discusses plans for competition and market research.

An acquisition strategy is not required for the Soldier Radio Waveform Appliqué system because it is not a formal acquisition program; however, the Army conducted market research and is seeking competition.

GAO grouped the nine systems into three categories based on similarities in the competition strategy.

Specifically, in two of the nine systems GAO examined–Mid-tier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR) and Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) Appliqué–the Army is beginning new programs and structuring the acquisition approaches to competitively procure non-developmental capabilities directly from industry.

The Army competitively awarded a procurement contract to Harris [HRS] for its MNVR, providing units for risk reduction and requirements verification. There is an estimated procurement of 10,293 of the radios, with an estimated total program cost of $1.3 billion.

In April 2014 the Army competitively awarded contracts to the contracting team of Exelis [XLS] General Dynamics [GD], Harris, and Thales to buy the SRW Appliqué. The Army wants an estimated 5,000 radios for an estimated total program cost of $800 million-$900 million.

Five of the nine systems GAO studied have been under development for many years. The Army had been developing software-defined radios to interoperate with existing radios. The Army is now seeking non-developmental solutions through competition to provide the capability.

For the other two systems: the Joint Battle Command–Platform and Nett Warrior, the Army said it plans to use full and open competition for individual subcomponents. In both cases, the Army conducted market research to identify vendors or seek feedback on requirements.

The Army deemed competition impractical for the two remaining systems in GAO’s review, the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 (WIN-T Inc 2) and (WIN-T Inc 3). The Army considered acquisition strategies for more competition in the development and procurement of these systems but determined that only the incumbent contractor–General Dynamics C4 Systems–could satisfy the requirements without unacceptable delays. However, the Army continues using market research to identify interested contractors and has awarded several competitive contracts for subcomponents under these two systems.

The Army’s goal is to develop an information network of sensors, software and radios to provide soldiers the exact information they need, when they need it and where they need it.