Data packets

JTRS delays pose major risk to FCS

As Defense Department officials discuss the future of many of the department’s major systems procurement programs, the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program received more criticism from the Government Accountability Office.

GAO has repeatedly chided the Army program in its annual March reports, which the agency is required by law to produce to report on the program's progress. GAO's latest report, issued March 16, casts additional doubt on whether the program will survive the next budget cycle without major cuts. GAO found that four key areas of the program were lagging in their development and that the Army would have difficulty proving its case for continuing FCS.

“The Army will be challenged to demonstrate the knowledge needed to warrant an unqualified commitment to the FCS program at the 2009 milestone review,” the report states. “While the Army has made progress, knowledge deficiencies remain in key areas. Specifically, all critical technologies are not currently at a minimum acceptable level of maturity. Neither has it been demonstrated that emerging FCS system designs can meet specific requirements or mitigate associated technical risks. Network performance is also largely unproven.”

While some of the most expensive FCS development activities remain to be completed before production begins, nearly 60 percent of the obligated development funds already have been spent, GAO noted.

However, Army officials say the report does not accurately reflect the state of the program. Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, the military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told the Army News Service, “We think the technologies are where they need to be.”

“I think they are really mischaracterizing what we have done so far,” Thompson said. “For example, this year alone, there are 203 test events in FCS. We are doing extensive testing.”

The report comes as the Army has demonstrated progress with some of the core technology elements of FCS. In early March, FCS program developers completed Integrated Mission Test-1 (IMT-1), a field test of the FCS network, the core communications and data networking element of the program. IMT-1 tested the network with 30 mockups of FCS’s planned Manned Ground Vehicles (MGV) and nearly 400 computers, as more than 45 soldiers and 120 government and contractor engineers put the network through simulated combat at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

FCS' network component has become even more important because the Army plans to expand capabilities for as many as 17 brigade combat teams as part of FCS Spinout 1 and install the component in existing vehicles such as the M-1 Abrams tank and M2/M3 Bradley armored fighting vehicles. FCS Spinout 1 was delivered to the Army Evaluation Task Force at Fort Bliss in May 2008.

However, the IMT-1 test was conducted primarily with early prototypes of the Ground Mobile Radio (GMR), the Joint Tactical Radio System radio that is to form the network's backbone. The GMR is slated to be part of FCS Spinout 1, but Boeing delivered the first two engineering development models (EDMs) of the Ground Mobile Radio to the FCS program March 19, after the completion of the IMT-1. The EDMs will be used as part of the planned Limited User Test for Spinout 1 at Fort Bliss this summer.

GAO singled out the JTRS program delays as one of four key technology areas of FCS that were still too immature to assure that they would be successful in FCS’ current schedule. “During the first part of the network preliminary design review held in November 2008, the Army recognized that there are significant gaps between the FCS requirements and the emerging network design,” the GAO report states.

”The Army has not yet been able to obtain validation of its TRL 6 rating for JTRS Ground Mobile Radio; the mobile, ad-hoc networking protocols; and Wideband Networking Waveforms. According to Army officials, if additional funding is provided and developments are fully successful, they will not fully meet FCS requirements until about 2017 or 2018.”

Previous delays in JTRS and other component technologies and the overall immaturity of the core technologies of FCS aren’t necessarily issues that the FCS program could have avoided, the GAO report notes. However, the agency’s analysts were doubtful that the Army would be able to demonstrate enough progress on FCS for the program to continue as planned.

The Army’s 2010-15 Program Objective Memorandum last fall called for adding $6.2 billion to the FCS program. But recent reports suggest the Army might cut more than half of the planned MGVs from the program to save the program as a whole. The GAO report notes that the program’s rising costs were causing a “tension between program costs and available funds that seems only likely to worsen, as FCS costs are likely to increase at the same time as competition for funds intensifies between near- and far-term needs in DOD and between DOD and other federal agencies.”

— Sean Gallagher

DOD helps Iraqi intell establlish new network

As part of its effort to help the Iraqi government build an effective intelligence capability of its own, the Intelligence Transition Team (ITT) for the Multinational Security Transition Command is establishing the equivalent of the Defense Department’s Secret IP Routed Network for Iraq’s domestic intelligence service.

The network is just one element of ITT’s supporting activities for the National Information and Investigation Agency (NIAA), part of Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior and the equivalent of the U.S. FBI.

Composed of 150 military, civilian DOD and contract personnel, including linguists and cultural experts, ITT is helping to rebuild the Iraqi security force’s intelligence organizations, said Army Col. Benjamin Lukefahr, an ITT member and a senior adviser to NIIA.

One of the first priorities of ITT is to help put a basic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance infrastructure in place for the Iraqi ministries of Defense and Interior. “We're trying to replicate as much of our military intelligence-like structure here in Iraq much as we have in the United States — obviously not the sophistication of capability that we have but clearly a rudimentary capability,” Lukefahr told Defense Systems during a recent DOD Blogger Roundtable.

The SIPRnet-like communications network that ITT is building for the Iraqi intelligence community is called the Iraqi Intelligence Network. “That is something that our team, ITT, has put into all of the Iraqi intelligence organizations at their headquarters level and in each of the 15 provinces to their headquarters locations there,” Lukefahr said. “We’re now looking at expanding that capability to other intelligence personnel assigned to places like national police, borders, ports, airports and those kinds of things.”

Although the Iraqis have existing communications networks, Lukefahr said they are not well-protected, ”so we’re trying to move them away from cell phones and guiding them to use [the intelligence network] and to give them a secure capability.”

— Sean Gallagher

DISA dispatches help-desk support to network

The Defense Information Systems Agency is taking steps to expand its help-desk support for customers of its Defense Information System Network (DISN), DISA officials said.

“We’re looking down the road to have a one-stop shop,” said Jacqueline James, chief of the DISN customer services division and video division. To that end, DISA’s DISN Customer Contact Center has supported both pre-service connection and outage issues since March 2, allowing U.S. customers to call one telephone number for both help requests. “We are extending it globally, as well,” said Boyd Bowling, chief of the DISN customer contact center.

DISN provides long-haul connections among the combatant commands, military bases, Defense Department agencies and deployed services. The network provides voice, data, text, video and bandwidth services as a reimbursable service.

Earlier this decade, DISA began internally consolidating its help-desk organization, but customers continued to bounce among multiple help desks. “They didn’t really know where to go," Bowling said. "They could make several different attempts at different places to get answers to their question.”

“We then thought, 'Let’s move this more into the total, single point of contact, where we start not only taking outage calls, but we start taking on calls on any issue with delivery service,'” he added. The new consolidation also allows DISA to better track what kinds of pre-service issues customers have. Before March 2, “we didn’t have a regimented way of getting all those contact calls documented, so we didn’t have one place to go to in order to do that analysis,” Bowling said.

As part of its effort to become more customer-friendly, the DISN Customer Contact Center is embracing the Information Technology Infrastructure Library framework supplemented by Enhanced Telecom Operations Map guidelines.

ITIL, in particular, has been gaining converts in the private sector and military services as a means of relating IT assets to the business services they support and managing them from a customer-value perspective.

“A server is not just a server,” said Chip Gliedman, a vice president at Forrester Research. "It’s a different server if it’s supporting a key business process."

ITIL was developed by the United Kingdom's government in the 1980s and also creates a common framework for managing services. “Everybody uses the same definition of what points from an incident to a problem, what the expectations are for problem management, what the approvals are for change management [and] for problem management,” Gliedman said.

— David Perera

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