The path taken

How many times has a road chosen taken you to an unexpected place? You begin down a path expecting a destination in mind, but for a variety of reasons—some beyond your control, some not—you find yourself marveling at your good luck or lamenting the bad.

I don’t believe it’s a reach to say that military hardware programs follow a similar trajectory (but without the philosophizing). The military’s Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) can be said to have taken such a path, starting out a decade ago as a number of complicated and expensive hardware and radio programs, but ending up as primarily a waveform factory. Of course, $6.7 billion was spent on that journey, though tangible results can be counted, such as deployment of the Rifleman radio, which is bringing unprecedented situational awareness to dismounted soldiers, and the creation of a waveform repository. The latter is expected to revolutionize communications interoperability between U.S. military services and coalition forces. 

We do a deep dive on the path JTRS has taken over the years in this month’s issue, talking in an exclusive interview with JTRS Joint Program Executive Officer BG Michael Williamson and Mark Compton, who will be shortly taking over as the director of JTRS’ successor organization, the Joint Tactical Networking Center, or JTNC, which people pronounce jit-nic. 

In particular, Williamson discusses how procurements should be modified to address the shortfalls that befell JTRS. I expect we’ll see some of those ideas about procurement receive greater prominence as Williamson transitions to his new job as assistant deputy for acquisition and systems management in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. For his part, Compton addresses how JTNC will move forward with the variety of waveforms already developed. 

Communications is a larger theme of this month’s issue, as we also write about novel ways that the military is using satellite and wireless communications, especially for mission command on the move. We also shake down commercial off-the-shelf mobile devices—the existence of which in of itself is one of the reasons expensive radios have lost some of their sheen in the eyes of military planners.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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