Lawmakers assert Army will broaden next-gen radio competition

New York state lawmakers are taking credit for an apparent shift in the Army’s acquisition strategy for its next-generation battlefield radio.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Army at his urging would change course in selecting vendors for the service’s Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) rifleman and “manpack” radio contracts. The Army had indicated in an earlier draft acquisition strategy that it planned to award a five-year contract to individual vendors for each radio.

In a statement released Nov. 14, Schumer said the “Army has committed to a multi-vendor, multi-award acquisition process – set to be finalized by the end of [November] – that would not only allow multiple companies to compete for the contracts, it would allow the Army to select multiple contractors to each make a percentage of the radios.”

Army officials reached on Nov. 14 had no immediate comment on Schumer’s statement.

In May 2012, Schumer succeeded in attaching language to the fiscal 2013 DOD authorization bill urging a competitive acquisition process for the JTRS radios before funds are obligated for full-rate production.

The JTRS handheld and portable radios would be certified for use in transmitting voice and data communications under the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations framework.

Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., has also been pressing DOD and the Army to reverse course on its JTRS radio acquisition strategy. Harris RF Communications, Rochester, N.Y., a likely bidder for the radio contracts, is located in Slaughter’s congressional district.

If in fact the Army decides to open up the JTRS radio competition, Schumer claimed “it will now allow commercial vendors, like Harris RF, to compete for these radio contracts or even portions of these radio contracts.”

Also expected to compete for the Army radio contracts are General Dynamics, Rockwell Collins and Thales Communications, among others.

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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