Joint and Coalition Tactical Networking – There's an App for That!

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Improving Affordability and Accelerating Innovation in Tactical Networking Using the Joint Tactical Radio System Enterprise Business Model
 
By Captain Jeff Hoyle, Industry Engagement Manager

"Ultimately, the network will connect leaders, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines at all levels, at every echelon of command, in any formation, and across the entire team with the right information quickly and seamlessly. I am confident it will make our various formations more lethal, faster, and more survivable in today's battlefield."

-- Former Vice Chief of Staff of the Army General Peter W. Chiarelli(1)

Downloading application software from online app stores created by companies such as Apple has radically transformed the market for goods and services around the world. Now, joint and coalition tactical networking for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines is benefiting from a similar business model. The Joint Program Executive Office for the Joint Tactical Radio System is expanding competition, reducing costs and increasing innovation in defense communications through sharing and reuse of tactical networking waveform software applications that significantly improve Warfighter interoperability, lethality and survivability.

Background – Recognizing the critical need for improved interoperability, situational awareness and informed decision making at the tactical edge of current and future battlefields, the Defense Department initiated development and acquisition of Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) networking capabilities at the beginning of the twenty first century. In 2005, a Joint Program Executive Office (JPEO) was established to improve focus and leadership of these efforts. To encourage competition and foster innovation, the JPEO created an entirely new business model for tactical networking capability acquisition. This JTRS Enterprise Business Model provides companies without government contracts access to tactical networking waveform software applications, enabling them to develop networking radio products that compete directly with those being developed under government contracts. This new approach is more agile than traditional defense systems acquisition, generating a greater variety of robust affordable networking solutions for joint and coalition Warfighters.

JTRS

By sharing waveform software applications through its own app store, known as the JTRS Information Repository, JPEO JTRS greatly expands the number of competitors in the JTRS radio hardware market. More competition lowers procurement costs and accelerates innovation as developers vie with one another to efficiently deliver new tactical networking capabilities.

How it works – Like the app store model, a key enabler for this JTRS Enterprise Business Model is common standards established by JPEO JTRS with the participation of communications industry partners. These standards ensure that shared waveform applications will operate properly on suitably developed hardware and operating environment software. Another important enabler is acquiring sufficient Government Purpose Rights in the waveform development contract to allow sharing of the delivered software with radio hardware providers at government discretion.

Reuse of waveform software applications among all radio providers improves their ability to interoperate with one another and reduces their cost of entry into the tactical networking market. Radio developers no longer need to develop waveform software applications concurrently with their radio hardware/operating environment production. This is a significant advance over older models where each radio provider develops redundant and often non-interoperable waveform versions according to a government specification. Because companies using this model do not realize a return on their investment until integration is complete, they are also strongly motivated to improve efficiency and accelerate product development.

Already, the success of this business model has expanded the scope of competition for integrating tactical networking capabilities into military ground and air vehicles. Rather than limiting competition to a small number of hardware providers qualified to build one specific radio design, the JTRS Enterprise Business Model enables much broader Non-Developmental Item procurement competitions among all defense communications developers. A broader portfolio of interoperable tactical networking devices yields a wider variety of features to meet the needs of evolving military network modernization strategies.

Eliminating barriers to entry – Statutory, regulatory and security certification requirements for communications systems present significant challenges to implementing innovative business models. The traditional Program of Record model assumes serial progression of a single system from development and demonstration to procurement and fielding. With the JTRS Enterprise Business Model, multiple tactical networking systems are commercially developed without being part of a traditional Program of Record. Although this is highly desirable for agile acquisition of rapidly evolving wireless networking capabilities, statutory, regulatory and certification requirements still must be met.

JPEO JTRS has developed new approaches to satisfying these requirements that better support the JTRS Enterprise Business Model objectives. Semiannual large scale Army Network Integration Evaluations are leveraged to provide operational assessment opportunities for all tactical networking systems regardless of development approach. Additionally, the National Security Agency supports JTRS Enterprise Business Model solutions through its Commercial Communications Security Evaluation Program. JPEO JTRS eliminates another potential barrier to entry by partnering with all commercial radio providers to integrate their products into JTRS Enterprise Network Manager (JENM) system development to allow common tactical network planning and monitoring regardless of specific hardware solutions procured.

Soldier Radio Waveform example – The Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) uses Mobile Ad Hoc Networking technology to deliver Internet protocol networking capability to Warfighters and unattended sensors/vehicles at the battlefield’s tactical edge. SRW capability is a Key Performance Parameter requirement for JTRS airborne, ground vehicular, man-portable and unattended vehicle/sensor radios.

Using a traditional acquisition approach, the number of SRW-capable networking radios would be limited only to government-funded Programs of Record. Making SRW available to commercial radio developers via the JTRS Enterprise Business Model has tripled the number of SRW implementations competing for procurement contracts at no additional cost to the government.

In March 2011, Major General James L. Huggins, the 82nd Airborne Division Commanding General, commented that SRW “performed in a remarkable fashion, allowing Soldiers within the platoon to exchange both voice and data information. This exchange allows junior leaders to more efficiently command and control their formations and provides a [Common Operating Picture] to the fire team level. Providing both voice and data beyond line of sight communications to the fire team level, [SRW] meets operational requirements and fills a gap where no capability currently exists.”(2)

In July 2011, the National Security Agency certified the first SRW-capable radio for secure deployed operations. This significant milestone was achieved by a commercial implementation that leveraged the JTRS Enterprise Business Model to integrate SRW software without government funding.

In September 2011, JPEO JTRS verified over-the-air interoperability of seven SRW radio implementations – three from Programs of Record and four from commercial developers. In November 2011, five of these SRW-capable radios were further tested during a large scale Army Network Integration Evaluation.

These successes validate the value of adopting the app store approach to share networking waveform software applications. The JTRS Enterprise Business Model has proven its ability to broaden the number of competitive, cost-effective and interoperable tactical networking solutions that meet Warfighter requirements.

Institutionalizing competition and continuous innovation – JPEO JTRS is further improving the JTRS Enterprise Business Model approach to affordably proliferate implementation of networking waveform software by establishing a Joint Reference Implementation Laboratory (JRIL). The JRIL will remove additional barriers to competition by providing a facility for commercial developers to test and evaluate their tactical networking products against a government-owned reference implementation. JRIL engineers will ensure interoperability by managing waveform software releases and testing compliance with applicable standards. The JRIL will also facilitate adoption of new technologies into joint and coalition tactical networks by identifying and integrating additional apps that benefit the Warfighter.

JRIL enhancements to the JTRS Enterprise Business Model will further enhance acquisition agility in the dynamic joint and coalition tactical networking arena. JPEO JTRS will continue leveraging this successful approach to expand competition, stimulate innovation and reduce costs while delivering interoperable connectivity to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines engaged in defeating our enemies and supporting our coalition partners around the world.

References

1. General Peter Chiarelli, U.S. Army, Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization Web Site (http://www.bctmod.army.mil)
2. Major General James L. Huggins, U.S. Army, “Memorandum for Military Deputy/Director Army Acquisition Corps Providing 82nd Airborne Division Network Excursion Feedback”, 3 March 2011.


About this Report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors arenot guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at GIGCustomMedia@1105govinfo.com