Defense Acquisitions:

Resolving Development Risks in the Army's Networked Communications Capabilities Is Key to Fielding Future Force

GAO-05-669: Published: Jun 15, 2005. Publicly Released: Jul 1, 2005.

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The Army has embarked on a major transformation of its force. Central to this transformation is the Future Combat Systems (FCS), a $108 billion effort to provide warfighters with the vehicles, weapons, and communications needed to identify and respond to threats with speed, precision, and lethality. Establishing reliable, robust communications and networking capabilities is key to FCS's success. Each of the systems integral to the FCS communications network--the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), and the System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE)--rely on significant advances in current technologies and must be fully integrated to realize FCS. Given the complexity and costs of this undertaking, GAO was asked to review each of these key development efforts to identify any risks that may jeopardize the successful fielding of FCS.

Each of the programs for developing FCS's communications network is struggling to meet ambitious sets of user requirements and steep technical challenges within highly compressed schedules. As currently structured, the programs are at risk of not delivering intended capabilities for the first spiral of FCS, slated to start in fiscal year 2008. The JTRS Cluster 1 program--a program to develop radios for ground vehicles and helicopters--began development with an aggressive schedule, immature technologies, and a lack of clearly defined and stable requirements. As currently designed, the radio will only have a transmission range of only 3 kilometers--well short of the required 10 kilometers--and will not meet security requirements for operating in an open networked environment. The program's struggle to mature and integrate key technologies has contributed to significant cost and schedule growth. A recent review of the program concluded that the current program structure is not executable, and in April 2005, DOD directed the Army to stop work and notify the contractor that it was considering terminating the contract. Meeting requirements for JTRS Cluster 5 radios--miniaturized radios, including those that soldiers carry--is even more technically challenging given their smaller size, weight, and power needs. The smallest of these radios weighs only about 1 pound, compared with 84 pounds for Cluster 1 radios. Several programmatic changes and a contract award bid protest have further slowed program progress. The Army is considering options for restructuring the program to meet the needs of FCS and address the technical issues encountered in the Cluster 1 program. The Army does not expect to fully mature the technologies for WIN-T--communications equipment that supports an expanded area of battlefield operations and interfaces with JTRS radios--when production begins in March 2006. Moreover, the compressed schedule assumes nearly flawless execution and does not allow sufficient time for correcting problems. Significant interdependencies among the critical technologies further increase overall program risk. The program was directed to deliver networking and communications capabilities sooner to meet near-term warfighting needs and synchronize with the restructured FCS program. A plan for how to develop and field WIN-T capabilities sooner to address FCS needs remains undetermined. According to Army network system integration officials, SOSCOE--the operating software to integrate the communications network--may not reach the necessary technical maturity level required to meet program milestones. In addition, top-level FCS requirements are still evolving and have not been translated into more detailed specifications necessary for writing SOSCOE software.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: Since (1) an enhanced Army communications network is critical for a successful transformation to FCS and (2) JTRS, including the advanced wideband waveforms, WIN-T, and SOSCOE are the key pillars of the communications network, the timing of the first FCS spiral should be based on when the pacing capabilities to be provided by JTRS and WIN-T will be demonstrated. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should develop an operational test and evaluation strategy that supports an evaluation of network maturity as part of FCS spiral production decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a May 2006 memorandum, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration reported that DOD has implemented to a large extent virtually every report recommendation. Regarding the development of an operational test and evaluation strategy that supports an evaluation of network maturity as part of FCS spiral production decisions, the latest FCS Test and Evaluation Master Plan (TEMP) was approved in April 2006. According to the TEMP, network testing will occur in all phases of the test program as well as at multiple levels within each phase and will provide an evaluation of the network maturity at each test event. The continuous testing of the network during each of the test phases will give an indication of the maturation of network capabilities.

    Recommendation: Since (1) an enhanced Army communications network is critical for a successful transformation to FCS and (2) JTRS, including the advanced wideband waveforms, WIN-T, and SOSCOE are the key pillars of the communications network, the timing of the first FCS spiral should be based on when the pacing capabilities to be provided by JTRS and WIN-T will be demonstrated. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should synchronize the FCS spiral schedule with such schedules for JTRS, WIN-T, and SOSCOE.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a May 2006 memorandum, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration reported that DOD has implemented to a large extent virtually every report recommendation. Regarding the synchronization of the FCS spiral schedule with such schedules for JTRS, WIN-T, and SOSCOE, through a December 2005 Program Decision Memorandum, WIN-T deliverables are now synchronized with FCS spinouts, including SOSCOE software builds. In addition, Increment 1 of the restructured JTRS program includes the development of a gateway architecture and gateways for the Wideband Networking Waveform and the Soldier Radio Waveform. Both waveforms are critical for the FCS program. In a March 2006 Acquisition Decision Memorandum, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics stated that developing a networking capability is the top priority and that key waveforms include the Wideband Networking Waveform and the Soldier Radio Waveform.

    Recommendation: Since (1) an enhanced Army communications network is critical for a successful transformation to FCS and (2) JTRS, including the advanced wideband waveforms, WIN-T, and SOSCOE are the key pillars of the communications network, the timing of the first FCS spiral should be based on when the pacing capabilities to be provided by JTRS and WIN-T will be demonstrated. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should establish low-risk schedules for demonstrating JTRS, WIN-T, and SOSCOE capabilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a May 2006 memorandum, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration reported that DOD has implemented to a large extent virtually every report recommendation. Regarding the establishment of low-risk schedules for demonstrating JTRS, WIN-T, and SOSCOE capabilities, the JTRS program received approval through a March 2006 Acquisition Decision Memorandum for a restructured incremental acquisition approach rated as moderate risk. In addition, through a December 2005 Program Decision Memorandum, WIN-T deliverables are now synchronized with FCS spinouts, including SOSCOE software builds, which reduces redundancies and focuses both programs on what is technically feasible within the given schedule and funding.

    Recommendation: In light of the delays in JTRS Cluster 1 and the criticality of the Wideband Networking Waveform for FCS, The Secretary of Defense should assess whether a greater priority should be placed on demonstrating the Wideband Networking Waveform on a JTRS radio prototype over other Cluster 1 capabilities in the remainder of the Cluster 1 development program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a May 2006 memorandum, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration reported that DOD has implemented to a large extent virtually every report recommendation. Regarding the assessment of whether a greater priority should be placed on demonstrating the Wideband Networking Waveform on a JTRS radio prototype over other Cluster 1 capabilities in the remainder of the Cluster 1 development program, the restructured JTRS program--which reflects an assessment of requirements by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Services--establishes a priority for three wideband networking waveforms. In a March 2006 Acquisition Decision Memorandum, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics stated that developing a networking capability is the top priority and that key waveforms include the Wideband Networking Waveform and the Soldier Radio Waveform. For JTRS Increment 1, the Wideband Networking Waveform is scheduled for implementation on the Ground Mobile Radio (formerly the Cluster 1 radio). In addition, the Ground Mobile Radio will implement another wideband waveform (the Soldier Radio Waveform) and four legacy waveforms.

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