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CHIPS Articles: The Joint Tactical Radio System

The Joint Tactical Radio System
Competition, open standards, software reuse and a joint governance structure turn the once struggling program into a winner providing capabilities to warfighters at the tactical edge.
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2008
The Joint Tactical Radio System, the once troubled Defense Department major acquisition program for developing and procuring software-defined radios, has been revitalized through a new business model that not only saves money, but delivers net-centric cutting edge technology into the Global Information Grid (GIG) for warfighters at the tactical edge. JTRS is actually a family of advanced software-based communications that will replace legacy radio equipment throughout the DoD. It will provide safe and secure Internet-like capabilities and networking for voice, text, audio and video.

In early February, Joint Program Executive Officer for the Joint Tactical Radio System Dennis Bauman and Deputy JPEO for JTRS Howard Pace talked to the media in San Diego, Calif., about how the JPEO-JTRS team is turning the program around. The following is Mr. Bauman's initial address to the media followed by media questions. Mr. Bauman's remarks have been edited for brevity.

My message for you today is that JTRS has changed a lot in the last three years. I am going to convince you that it has gone from a troubled program that was near cancellation to a program that's delivering capability today and is on the path to delivering even greater capability in the not too distant future.

First, I would like to talk about the significance of JTRS. We are in a position where we are enjoying tremendous support from the highest levels of DoD and from Congress. The reason is the importance of JTRS to the Department of Defense.

The DoD is on a path to achieve network-centric capability. The network is important to the way we intend to fight in the future. We have the GIG and a satellite network where we can get out to the command post, but without a capability like JTRS, network-centric warfare stops at the command center.

You can't get to the tactical edge without a capability like JTRS. That capability is more than a cell phone network — we don't have cell towers on the field and we can't use BlackBerry technology for many reasons.

We have to do mobile ad hoc networking from the command center or the command vehicle out to the tactical edge. That is the significance of JTRS. That's why Congress and DoD are so interested in it.

The second reason is that the joint force has traditionally had significant interoperability problems between its various components. JTRS will contribute to the solution to that challenge. We are going to do that by using common software across all the boxes, common waveform software, and it will be interoperable.

The third significant thing about JTRS is that we are going to save money for the Department of Defense. I will talk in more detail about the traditional business model that we have been using in the radio world since World War II to develop and procure radios. We are using a significantly different business model that is more competitive and more open.

Fourth, and not as easily recognized, is to know that we have potential warfare challenges with overhead satellite communications. But JTRS does not rely on SATCOM. JTRS provides voice, video, data and battlefield communications when reachback is not possible.

Three years ago we had a loose federation of five ACAT I programs that were run by the services. They were only loosely federated because it was not a joint entity, and there was no single management structure. Congress got involved and said: you ought to revise the management structure.

The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD (AT&L)) at the time was Mike Wynne (who is now Secretary of the Air Force). Secretary Wynne wrote a report to Congress that said we are going to fix JTRS; we are going to stand up a centralized program executive office and have all the program managers report to that PEO and have that PEO report to the USD (AT&L).

That's how JPEO JTRS was born. Secretary Wynne gave me these goals: (1) Deliver the capability that has been promised; (2) Make it a truly joint capability, not service-dominated in any of the parts; and (3) Get us to a more affordable paradigm for acquiring communications and networking in the Department of Defense.

Based on that guidance, we developed and are now taking a unique enterprise approach. By enterprise, I mean we are looking at rolling out a capability that consists of several different form factors, but the same basic capability for the joint enterprise.

The enterprise approach that we are taking has two fundamental aspects to it — short-term and long-term. Let me talk about these two aspects. Three years ago, when the JPEO was stood up, we did an analysis of where we were and found that each one of the five ACAT I programs was delivering everything at once.

The whole capability that was in the 800-page CDD (Capabilities Development Document) was to be delivered at one time in each of the roll out phases, then called clusters. That’s a recipe for disaster in a highly technical development world. We turned all of the clusters into increments. We are now taking an incremental approach. As a result, we have defined Increment I which we are building now. That is a significant subset of what was in this 800-page CDD.

Now we are working with the Joint Staff to define Increment II and to get it funded and resourced. Instead of a big bang in the short-term, we went to an incremental approach.

The second thing we have done is to focus on acquisition fundamentals. In our business, fundamentals are requirements management and discipline. We have defined the requirement for Increment I of JTRS precisely, and we are managing those requirements because requirements growth is a significant contributor to the decline of many complex programs.

Second, we focused on risk management. This is rocket science, but we have a lot of rocket scientists working on it. There are a lot of risks when you develop complex technology, but we are identifying those risks and managing them in a two-tier way.

We have traditional program risk management for each of the five ACAT ID (“D” for Acquisition Defense Board and for which the USD AT&L is the Milestone Decision Authority.) programs. Then we have an enterprise risk approach where we define, identify and mitigate risks for the entire enterprise.

The fundamentals are: requirements management, risk management and contracts management. We believe that you have to manage contracts correctly to get the results that you want. We use Earned Value Management and incentive structures.

The incentive structures across all of our contracts are back-loaded on the fee. As the development goes on and the product becomes more mature and the product is delivered, the vendor earns a fee. Vendors do not get a fee for developing view graphs. Fifty percent of the fee is paid in the last 25 percent of the development. It is very effective.

It is not what is traditionally called a beauty contest for an award fee. It is tied to measurable events, and our vendors know what those measurable events are, both in terms of schedule and performance. Vendors like that because they know what they have to do. It is a win-win for both of us.

In the long-term, we looked at the way radio capability was traditionally developed and procured by the Department of Defense. In the past, you would do a full and open competition for System Design and Development (SDD). At the end, you are left with a vendor who has produced the capability. Then you traditionally sole source for that vendor for production, upgrade and sustainment of that capability.

That’s the business model that has been used since World War II. The result has been that while we have gotten good capability from our vendors, we have ended up in a sole source position where all the intellectual property is owned and controlled by the vendor. When we want to upgrade and sustain that capability, we have to go back to the sole source vendor. We believe that costs a lot more money. We believe in competition.

We have fundamentally changed the business approach for acquiring this kind of capability. We still do full and open competition for the System Design and Development phase, but we require that at the end of SDD, we qualify two or more sources in production for every product that’s developed.

For production, we compete in lots at least annually among multiple vendors. One example is the MIDS (Multifunctional Information Distribution System) Low Volume Terminal (LVT). That is not a software-defined radio; it’s a legacy radio that my MIDS program produces. There is also a JTRS MIDS.

The EDMs (engineering development models) on MIDS LVT were around $600,000 each. The first models that came off the production line were somewhat cheaper, in the $400,000 range. We’ve competed every year for about six or seven years and driven the cost of those terminals down to $185,000 a terminal.

It’s not all through competition, but a significant contributor is that we compete every year in lots. We can award 0-100 percent, but we traditionally award somewhere between a ratio of 60-40 and 70-30 between the two vendors. We are using that model across the board in our enterprise.

The second thing is we want to stay out of a closed proprietary situation. We are obtaining government purpose rights or better on all the software that we are having developed under our contracts. All the software we have developed is open standards-based. It is based on the Software Communications Architecture, or SCA. We have 26 application program interfaces that are rigorously defined and baselined. We have our developers use those 26 APIs and build according to the SCA. The reason to do that is for portability so that later on in the life cycle we can switch out vendors. It is like a plug-and-play approach to the development of software. We didn’t invent it, but we use it.

Third, since we obtain government purpose rights or better on all of our software, we place all that software code in a repository and make it available to our vendor base within our contracts. We also make it available to contractors who may not have a contract with or may not be developing products for JTRS.

We have 13 waveforms and three operating environments in that repository — more than 4 million lines of code. We give out library cards to our repository to vendors who ask for it based on certain criteria. Number one, vendors have to show that they’re going to use it for government purposes. They have to demonstrate that they are going to use it in the government’s best interest for government purposes.

Second, they have to agree that if they take software out of the repository and make changes to it, they have to put the changed software back into the repository with government purpose rights so we can share it.

This is not exactly a Linux model, but it is an open model compared to what the Department of Defense traditionally uses. It promotes multiple sources, ease of porting and interoperability. This is our enterprise business model: competition in production, open standards-based, software reuse through the repository and a joint governing structure.

AT&L Secretary Krieg gave me a homework assignment three years ago to propose a model for developing a joint program. This is a joint program, and it has to deliver a joint capability. If you have service-domination of the governing structure, you threaten that interoperability, that jointness.

Joint is difficult. We came back with a recommendation to adopt a corporate model where we have a board of directors. The board of directors is chaired by USD (AT&L) and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The PA&E (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Director for Program Analysis and Evaluation), the OSD (Office of Secretary of Defense) comptroller, the three-star programmers from the services, as well as the service acquisition executives, are on that board of directors.

The beauty is that you have everybody in the room needed to make and enforce a decision. That is not always true with acquisition programs because you have acquisition authority, you have requirements authority, you have resource authority, and each one has its own process. They are parallel processes and they intersect, but they are not necessarily under the control of one entity.

Underneath the board of directors is the JTRS Executive Council or JEC, which I chair along with the J-6 (C4 Systems Directorate) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It has a similar parallel structure.

We hold a JEC meeting preparatory to every board of directors meeting quarterly. We have held six or seven of them now, and the structure is well in use and has history. It still is in place as we transition under Secretary Young.

For the long-term, we believe in getting a critical mass of talent in one place, if you are going to take an enterprise approach. To that end, we have moved all the program offices except one, to San Diego. We are close to being done with that. We have here in San Diego a critical mass of acquisition folks and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) helps us with this. Second, we have a critical mass of technical people from the government within SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego.

San Diego is the wireless hub of the world so this is an appro¬priate place to be for our enterprise to tap into, both with industry as well as with academia. Finally, the Federally Funded Research and Development Centers have a presence in San Diego, and they have beefed up their presence to support JPEO JTRS.

I asserted earlier that we have turned this thing around so let me tell you why I think that is the case.

The GMR program, the Ground Mobile Radio, is a four-channel ground radio that goes in vehicles, and it is key to the success of Future Combat Systems because it provides the networking capability in the FCS vehicles.

We re-baselined the contract with our prime, Boeing Corp., and we have delivered greater than 50 pre-EDMs to the Army for experimentation into FCS. They have them in the desert and are experimenting with them running four simultaneous waveforms on the four channels. Any of the four channels will run any of the waveforms because they have a universal transceiver.

The four simultaneous waveforms that we are running on the pre-EDMs are Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) voice, SINCGARS data, Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS) and Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW).

WNW is probably the most complex networking communications waveform that we have ever seen. It’s designed to be the tactical backbone for the FCS program, the Army Modular Force and the Marine Corps. The version of WNW that we have oper¬ating on those pre-EDMs already has two-megabit per second point-to-point throughput, which is the threshold requirement for the final waveform. We think we are going to get a heck of a lot more than that as we mature this waveform.

We conducted a capstone Critical Design Review in December with individual CDRs on the hardware components. Three years ago, the National Security Agency declared the architecture uncertifiable because of its vulnerabilities. We had to redesign, and the CDR was on that redesign.

HMS, the Handheld/Manpack/Small Form Fit (formerly Cluster 5), is the second ACAT ID program. Our prime is General Dynamics. We have re-baselined that contract, and we have delivered EDMs for several form factors. The primary emphasis here is on building a small module about hockey puck size which contains the core radio for HMS.

Then we reuse that core radio across all the different form factors in HMS that range from the largest being a manpack and the smallest, a hockey puck-sized device that goes on intelligent munitions, sensor fields, mine fields and more. We’ve delivered many different EDMs and form factors. We have LRIP (Low Rate Initial Production) to begin in October 2009 for Phase I and Jan-uary of 2011 for Phase II.

The third ACAT I program is MIDS JTRS. MIDS LVT is a box that goes into tactical fighters and it provides Link-16 TACAN (tactical air navigation). MIDS JTRS is the same form fit box, but it provides four channels, one of the four software definable channels. You can pull out a MIDS LVT and plug in MIDS JTRS in the same hole with the same cable. It is a four-channel software-defined radio. Channel one does Link-16 TACAN.

The capability that is in MIDS LVT is in one of the four channels on MIDS-J and we have three other channels with universal transceivers that are available for other capabilities. A follow-on phase is to add the airborne networking capability into the MIDS-J box. Our initial airborne networking capability is a waveform called TTNT (tactical targeting network technology). F-18s are currently flying with an air worthy MIDS-J terminal, and we have had at least three flights (maybe four by now) doing TACAN.

We are working our way up to Link-16, and it is performing as well if not better than the MIDS LVT can do TACAN. We deliver production transition terminals later this calendar year. AMF (Airborne, Maritime and Fixed) is the fourth ACAT I program. We completed pre-SDD contracts that went post-PDR using two vendor teams. Lockheed Martin and Boeing primed those two vendor teams. Those contracts are completed. We are fully funded for the follow-on SDD phase. We are in source selection on a full and open competition to do the SDD phase of AMF, and we anticipate an award of that contract later this quarter.

We gave a Milestone B brief to the board of directors at the Dec. 14 meeting, and we are staffing the ADM (Acquisition Decision Memorandum) to get a Milestone B Decision on AMF.

The fifth ACAT I program is the software that is used across the enterprise. It is called NED, Network Enterprise Domain. We delivered version 2.5 of WNW, and we are already at the threshold throughput on that waveform. It increased the number of ad hoc nodes, and we have demonstrated this mobile ad hoc networking where nodes come into and out of the WNW network without preplanning. We’re scheduled to deliver 3.0 the beginning of March. Version 4.0, the final version to be fielded, follows that.

The final one we are producing is SRW, the Soldier Radio Waveform, that’s a smaller scale networking waveform for stub networking down to the Soldier or sensor level, primarily in HMS. However, it will be resident in GMR to allow the dismounted Soldier, as well as sensor fields and munitions, to gateway into the tactical backbone of a network provided by WNW on GMR. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency developed waveforms for SRW.

NED has delivered nine legacy waveforms that are in our repository and most have been through formal qualifications. Now we are in the process of porting them into a radio box.

Single-channel handheld radios, the old Cluster 5 of JTRS, developed a radio called JEM, the JTRS Enhanced MBITR (Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio). It was developed under the auspices of U.S. Special Operations Command with a full and open competition. Thales Communications won the competition several years ago.

Thales built the JEM radio, a single-channel, handheld software-defined radio that can instantiate and connect multiple waveforms. It has embedded programmable crypto, certified by NSA, and it has demonstrated interoperability through Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) testing. Those are four fundamental JTRS characteristics. That is what we call a ‘JTRS-approved radio,’ and it passed operational tests a year and a half ago.

Normally, we would have gone into production, sole-sourced to Thales on the old business model, and that was what we planned. Instead of that, we had another competitor on the market, Harris Corp., who had built a similar radio with similar capabilities with its own money. We were aware of that, and in accordance with our business model, we competed production. About nine months ago, we awarded a multiple IDIQ (indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity) contract.

It was a full and open competition for any company that could bring in a single-channel JTRS-approved radio that met the fundamentals that I mentioned earlier. We awarded to Thales for the JEM radio and to Harris for the Falcon III handheld.

When we have a service customer who wants to buy a single-channel handheld JTRS-approved radio, we can compete based on best value, cost or any number of factors, or we can sole source if that is what our customer wants to do.

Recently, the Army came to us with an order for 39,000 single-channel handheld radios. The Army sent $239 million based on the current price of those radios. We competed on the basis of cost between those two vendors, and we awarded that contract for 39,000 radios — and were able to return $104 million to the Army customer.

We attribute that directly to the fact that the two vendors had to compete. It pushed the price point of the radio down, and we were able to return about 40 percent of the Army’s money.

Our latest delivery orders were for the Air Force. They sent us $55 million, and we returned $29 million based on competition.

This example demonstrates the success of JTRS in four ways. First, we are delivering JTRS capability today. These are software-defined radios with embedded crypto, they meet NSA security standards, they are based on the SCA, and they have been shown to be interoperable in JITC testing.

Second, it should be clear that our competitive business model is going to save money.

Third, we are achieving demonstrated interoperability. These two radios not only interoperate with each other, they interoperate with legacy radios.

Fourth, we demonstrated that the government doesn’t have to pay for all the development. Harris paid for the development of its radio and is getting the payback by competing and earning money in production for a return on what it invested in R&D.

My bottom line is — JTRS is crucial to the Department of Defense.

Why JTRS is important to the Defense Department
• Brings communications to the tactical edge
• It is born joint and interoperable between the services and legacy radios
• It is network-centric fitting seamlessly into the Global Information Grid
• Its business model promotes competition, saves money and provides best value to customers
• It is based on the Software Communications Architecture which promotes portability for a plug and play environment
• Its government purpose rights software repository saves money on development costs and provides speedier development for software upgrades and use in other Defense acquisition programs

The Office of the Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics approved moving forward with the SDD phase for the Joint Tactical Radio System Airborne Maritime Fixed Station (JTRS AMF) program March 24. The SDD phase consists of critical design, prototype and engineering model fabrication, initial testing and certification, as well as options for low rate production. In following with the JPEO JTRS enterprise business model for competition in production, the prime contractor Lockheed Martin, will be responsible for qualifying a minimum of two sources for each form factor who will also ensure their JTRS compliance. Announced in a release by the JTRS Joint Program Office, Lockheed Martin was awarded the $766 million SDD contract March 28 in an open source, best value competition.

AMF JTRS Advantages
• Open system architecture designed to support DoD commu¬nications from sea to air
• Modular, scalable design that reduces life cycle costs and enables easy technology insertion
• A software-programmable, multiband, multimode digital radio enabling interoperability across the spectrum of operations
• Increased network situational awareness
• Improved voice, video and data throughputs
• Enhanced security through the use of high assurance Internet protocol-based encryption

JPEO JTRS Dennis Bauman responds to questions during a media roundtable discussion in San Diego, Feb. 6, 2008.
JPEO JTRS Dennis Bauman responds to questions during a media roundtable discussion in San Diego, Feb. 6, 2008.

Deputy JPEO for JTRS Howard Pace responds to questions during a media roundtable discussion in San Diego, Feb. 6, 2008.
Deputy JPEO for JTRS Howard Pace responds to questions during a media roundtable discussion in San Diego, Feb. 6, 2008.

Army Maj. Jonathan Studer, Network Enterprise Domain (NED) asset product manager for enterprise network services, demonstrates some of the radios under the JPEO JTRS product line at the West 2008 conference in San Diego, Calif., in February 2008.
Army Maj. Jonathan Studer, Network Enterprise Domain (NED) asset product manager for enterprise network services, demonstrates some of the radios under the JPEO JTRS product line at the West 2008 conference in San Diego, Calif., in February 2008.

JPEO for JTRS Dennis Bauman with some of the members of the JTRS team at the West 2008 conference exhibit. JTRS is a family of interoperable software-defined radios that provide secure, wireless networking communications capabilities for the joint force.
JPEO for JTRS Dennis Bauman with some of the members of the JTRS team at the West 2008 conference exhibit. JTRS is a family of interoperable software-defined radios that provide secure, wireless networking communications capabilities for the joint force.

The Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) testing of the Ground Mobile Radio (GMR) at Fort Huachuca. The GMR is designed for vehicles and is an integral part of the Army Future Combat System for networking. All JTRS-approved radios must be JITC-tested for interoperability with legacy radios, as well as new wave forms. They must also meet National Security Agency security standards. Photo courtesy of Boeing Corp.
The Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) testing of the Ground Mobile Radio (GMR) at Fort Huachuca. The GMR is designed for vehicles and is an integral part of the Army Future Combat System for networking. All JTRS-approved radios must be JITC-tested for interoperability with legacy radios, as well as new wave forms. They must also meet National Security Agency security standards. Photo courtesy of Boeing Corp.
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