Now that the program has been scaled-down and reorganized, contractors working on the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) are evaluating how those changes will affect their work, and awaiting award of the program’s next component late this year.

The JTRS program is designed to provide interconnectivity for all branches of the U.S. military through the development of a single, software-programmable receiver to be used by all the services for voice, data and video communications using a common waveform, or digital signal.

The revamping of the JTRS program was ordered in a March 31 decision memorandum signed by Department of Defense Undersecretary Kenneth Krieg that limited the number of waveforms that initially would be developed.

The program was previously organized into five clusters of hardware that were being developed to support the software, said Dennis Bauman, a joint program executive officer for JTRS, during a teleconference May 3. It has since been restructured into what the Pentagon calls four domains: the ground segment (which includes both mobile handheld radios and mobile radios for vehicles); the airborne and maritime work; the network software; and adding JTRS capability to the existing Enhanced Multi-Band Intra-Team Radio, Bauman explained.

The contract award for the airborne and maritime segment of the program is expected to be awarded in December 2006 or in early January. Teams le d by Boeing and Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin are competing for the contract.

Another change is that instead of developing 32 waveforms for the program, JTRS will focus on only nine waveforms during the initial phase of the project, Bauman said.

Bauman said the restructuring was necessary to cut costs and give the program a more centralized management.

Bauman noted that since the program’s conception, it has changed from merely replacing legacy radio systems to adding increased mobile, on-the-move capabilities for warfighters. Additional security requirements also were added to the program.

Under the new structure, the network management of the program will not be dependent on one contractor, he said.

The program is projected to cost $4 billion for its first increment, which will take place over the next five years, Bauman said. Bauman declined to provide an estimate for what the total program costs will be, saying that his department plans to develop a detailed, independent cost estimate of the program over the next few months.

The JTRS program has been plagued by management issues and cost overruns. In its report on the 2006 authorization for defense, the House of Representatives noted that Government Accountability Office reports had estimated that the program would exceed its projected cost of $24 billion, and reduced its budget $334.3 million due to program delays. The Office of Management and Budget’s report on the president’s 2007 budget notes that the restructuring will save approximately $233 million in 2007.

“It was restructured because the program as it was crafted wasn’t working,” said Robbin Laird, a defense analyst based in Washington and Paris. “The core ideas of having [so many] different bandwidths on a single radio was just too hard to do.”

Laird said the newly restructured program is more feasible and cost-sensitive, but that the changes may not be enough to save the program.

“I’m extremely skeptical about JTRS itself,” Laird said. He noted that JTRS was conceived before the country was at war, and that trying to integrate technology being rolled out into the battlefield as it is being developed may prove too challenging.

“But I think it’s good for the program what they’ve done,” Laird said. “As opposed to just canceling it, which I think they were bordering on doing, they’ve re directed and re designed to make it much more realistic.”

Chicago-based Boeing Company’s $384 million contract to develop the program’s ground mobile radios for vehicles was shifted into the ground domain of the reorganization. The rest of the work in the ground domain, which includes handheld radios, is being done by General Dynamics of Falls Church, Va.

Boeing originally was asked to develop radios for Army helicopters as part of the contract, but that aspect was shifted to the airborne segment in the restructuring.

Ralph Moslener, a program manager for Boeing, said in a telephone interview June 7 that the helicopter radios only accounted for about 2 percent of the total radios being built.

“In the whole scheme of things, it’s not a big loss,” he said.

Boeing is working to determine how much of a financial impact the program changes will have on the company. Moslener predicted that the new program requirements such as the additional security measures will lead to a larger contract estimate than its current value.

Boeing believes that development work done on various waveforms, such as its wide-band networking signal, which helps bring Internet capabilities to the battlefield, will be useful for other aspects of the program, Moslener said.

“What the [joint program office] is doing is focusing on increment one,” Boeing said. “There is a baseline set of waveforms we will do, but other waveforms may just be delayed or go into another increment.”

Lockheed Martin spokesman Keith Mordoff said that the company’s JTRS team could not answer questions by deadline, but that Lockheed supports the reorganization. He said the team’s airborne and maritime proposal is performing ahead of schedule and on budget.