Strategic Vision and Path Forward

Q&A with Brigadier General Michael Williamson, Joint Program Executive Officer, Joint Tactical Radio System

Defense Systems: General, can you review for us the basic purpose of JTRS?

JTRS 2012BG Williamson: As a “bottom line up front,” JTRS products and networking waveforms connect tactical Warfighters, providing cyber-secure, wireless communications for ground, air, sea platforms. As a strategic approach, we are integrating both current programs as well as industry-developed solutions to rapidly meet the needs of the Joint Warfighter. JTRS is more than a radio; it is a wirelessly networked mobile computing device. For the first time, we are integrating high bandwidth information – including sensor information from joint and national assets – into a single, mobile network for Warfighters at the tactical edge. For a commercial comparison, a JTRS radio acts like a cell tower and router – unlike your blackberrys, cell phones or PDAs, the networking “smarts” are all self-contained in a single networking box. Thus, it is a capability that is joint, secure and deployable worldwide and, as such, does not require fixed infrastructure.

A good example of why this is important is comparing current legacy systems with networking systems leveraged by the individual Soldier as part of a squad-level Quick Reaction Force (QRF).

In today’s battlefield systems, soldiers rely on point-to-point communications (that rely on communications relay), creating a demand that all Soldiers have a radio for common SA and a dependency on both the ability and attentiveness of all units to respond to labor-intensive relay operations. Inhibiting the capabilities, JTRS provides results in: hindered operations in an obstruction-intensive urban environment; lack of automated relay to other squad members, each squad leader will have to pause from their activity and verbally relay support requests; no automated or continuous Position Location Information (PLI); position reporting is possible via voice, however requires additional time to transmit PLI. Further, if units have to move, that will require additional reports causing additional mission delays.

Leveraging JTRS networking systems in a similar tactical environment, a SRW-enabled network provides automated relay of critical information (up to three hops), avoiding the requirement for others to perform relay functions. This reduces critical delays in transmission time and potential verbal relay errors (such as missed transmissions). Automated and continuous PLI data provides accurate locations down to each individual soldier. If the squad moves, required PLI is automated allowing for increased situational awareness for the QRF and OP while not requiring the soldier to pause and transmit in a fire-intensive environment.

In a mission set such as this, a networked force possesses a critical tactical advantage, getting inside the enemy’s “observe, orient, decide and act” (OODA) loop, leading to battlefield success. This same scenario could also be replicated in the air or at sea.

Defense Systems: What is the overall status of the programs?

BG Williamson: Overall, the JTRS program is over 80 percent complete in terms of development and with two hardware programs post Milestone C (HMS and MIDS JTRS) and two that are pre-Milestone C (GMR and AMF). Many of our capabilities, both hardware and software, were recently demonstrated in the field with other Army networking products and capabilities at White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, Texas (the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE). These exercises are a critical part of the Army’s AGILE process to quickly field new capabilities in a synchronized manner for deploying brigade combat teams. In addition to the set of biannual NIEs, we are working hard to develop the right mechanisms to encourage industry to bring their solutions to the table so we can assess their capabilities as part of a larger interoperable tactical force.

Most legacy and networking waveforms and network management/enterprise services have completed FQT and delivery to the hardware platforms for porting. These waveforms and network managers are being integrated into the various target hardware for testing and production. The program office is working with the Navy’s PEO Space Systems and HMS and AMF programs to synchronize MUOS waveform development. This is a particular challenge, but one that we are working particularly hard with both the Navy and OSD.

In terms of the specific hardware programs, we are tracking toward production and delivery in many areas. For the Handheld/Manpack/Small FormFit (HMS) program, we completed a successful Milestone C and limited production decision this year and recently conducted the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) for the Rifleman Radio during the most recent NIE. The HMS 2-channel Manpack also conducted a Limited User Test during the NIE in July [of 2011]. This program is meeting several successful milestones and driving toward full production and delivery.

JTRS 2012 SoldierOur Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) program is also tracking well toward full rate production and delivery. We completed IOT&E and executed two Limited Production buys for integration into Navy and Air Force aviation platforms. Over the past several months, we have conducted additional testing on the Navy’s F/A-18 and the Air Force’s E-8/JSTARS aircraft and most recently began integration and flight testing on the Air Force’s RC-135/Rivet Joint aircaft.

The Ground Mobile Radio (GMR) completed a customer test as part of the June 2011 NIE with exceptional demonstrated results for WNW. However, due to cancellation of the FCS program, the Army has reduced its required quantities, which triggered a Nunn-McCurdy recertification review. As part of the DOD’s Nunn-McCurdy recertification process, the Department of the Army, in coordination with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, decided to not re-certify the GMR program, effectively terminating the current program of record (PoR). However, the development effort to date has provided the foundation for a less expensive, mid-tier radio running the Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW). This capability will be an essential component of the Army's tactical network architecture, providing a critical link between soldiers at the lowest tactical echelon and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). Accordingly, the Army is already looking at Industry provided alternatives that meet the intent of this Low Cost Reduced SWaP (LCRS) radio, particularly as part of the Army’s AGILE process and at the biannual set NIEs. Competitive production awards are targeted to meet the Army’s Capability Set 13/14 requirements as part of their tactical network architecture.

In terms of our Airborne and Maritime Fixed Station (AMF) program, the prime vendor team delivered an initial AMF Small Airborne (SA) pre-production radio to the Apache program for initial integration and test. We continue to work with the vendor toward a more mature set of pre-production AMF SA deliveries in early spring.

Defense Systems: What are your priorities going forward?

BG Williamson: My strategic priorities are bucketed into three main areas:

1. Deliver Radios – I’ve already spoken about the delivery status of the radios. Prior to assuming the JPEO role, I had the opportunity to meet with troops in an operational theater – thus I was exposed to the real time challenges of Warfighters at the edge of the battlefield, especially in the area of tactical networking and getting inside the enemy’s decision loop. Accordingly, and upon assuming the JPEO role, delivery of this capability was my number one priority. Over the past nine months, I continued to push the JTRS team and aggressively work with the OSD staff to clear the necessary hurdles to deliver this critical capability to the Warfighter. The decision for the HMS Milestone C was an example of how we accelerated getting this decision made and initiating the necessary contracting actions to start the production for both Rifleman Radio and Manpack. Further, the GMR Nunn-McCurdy decision is also a positive one for the Warfighter as we are able to initiate the right contracting action to potentially procure a less expensive, mid-tier radio running the Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) (and possibly other waveforms as well) in a shorter period of time.

2. Develop a strategy for the future – The initial set of JTRS radios and software development is nearing completion and affording a deployment of these important capabilities. Furthermore, we’ve put into place a business model that retains government purpose rights for software and encourages future competition. As the programs mature and other DOD customers leverage the networking waveforms for other hardware instantiations, we are looking at expanding this concept and formalize the way we certify interoperability for what I call the the tactical network “mission space.”

I think it is important that we bound what I am defining as the Joint Tactical Network “mission space.” For purposes of how to organize around this mission space, I defined it as “the IP-based networking waveforms connecting Service Point of Presence (POP) systems to and between mobile tactical platforms.” In a nutshell, IP-based networking waveforms, network managers, and enterprise services connecting mobile users and facilitating their reach back into the GIG via Service POPs.

To effectively align and enable this capability across the stakeholder communities, it is critical that an entity is chartered to technically manage this “space.” Effectively managing this network requires critical skill sets and experience to enable: technical authority, compliance and certification and acquisition authority to execute programs, manage NDI solutions and enable rapid technical insertion. Organized and scoped correctly, the current JPEO JTRS organization has the SMEs and experience necessary to effectively and efficiently assure interoperability for tactical forces, providing a single Joint technical authority over the tactical network.

Leveraging the JTRS standards, Information Repository, JTEL and existing intellectual capital, we have established a Joint Reference Implementation Lab (JRIL) component that is designed to ensure long term interoperability and efficient delivery of performance enhancements to joint services tactical communications and networks – JTRS PoR, other Service PoR and NDI products and software. You’ll hear more about this organization in successive articles in this edition. As an extension of existing JTRS PoRs, NDI products and processes, the JRIL will be a core component for a re-chartered organization moving forward. The benefits to this approach include:

• Reduced cost to the Warfighter -- Removes barriers to competition such as proprietary specifications, lack of test equipment, and lack of comprehensive documentation, to ensure at least two vendors are competing; provides SME assistance to all radio vendors desiring to deliver a new product; provides a facility for vendors to test their product for compatibility with the government’s gold standard.

• Ensured interoperability for DOD Joint Networking -- Manages and coordinates waveform versions/releases across all services; establishes DOD waveform/hardware standards, assuring interoperability across all services.

• Accelerated technology evolution of networking waveform products -- Establishes DOD-acceptable speed to transition technology advancements and new capabilities; configuration control board manages problems/change request; faster response to emerging threats is facilitated; modeling and simulation capability assists with future CONOPs development.

• More effective adoption of Non Development Items (NDI) Technologies into DOD Networking -- Reduces the risk inherent with introduction of NDI technologies into established DOD Joint Networking environment; promotes the integration of approved apps that benefit the Warfighter.

In execution, we are leveraging the synergy of multiple, cross-service labs with existing SDR and networking waveform expertise (such as Navy/SPAWAR Systems Centers, SSC Atlantic, SSC Pacific; the Army’s CERDEC lab facilities at APG). We need to continue to network and build that expertise with the Air Force and Marine Corps as it applies to the “tactical network space” I outlined above.

Bottom line, this approach will enable rapid increment and interoperable fielding of tactical networking capability in the future.

3. Take care of the people -- My final priority is the most important and it directly drives the success of the first two. Although the level of maturity of JTRS systems and SDR technologies is gaining traction, the people and diversity of expertise needed to manage this capability is still vitally important and in great demand – we absolutely cannot take that for granted. For example, the technical/systems engineering competencies and experience necessary to instantiate and successfully manage a JRIL organization will be critical in terms of managing existing products – JTRS waveforms, software OEs, network managers and hardware products – as well as integrating new products that come direct from Industry. Furthermore, many of the same core acquisition skillsets including program management, financial management, cost estimating, and logistics management will still be required as the products mature toward delivery and sustainment. As such, is it vitally important for us to maintain and build our talent base to support the challenges ahead.

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