Defense Acquisitions:

Challenges Associated With Implementing the Joint Tactical Radio System

NSIAD-99-179: Published: Sep 9, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 9, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Defense's (DOD) Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) acquisition strategy and management plans, focusing on the: (1) status of the JTRS program, including DOD development plans; and (2) challenges program officials will face in implementing the JTRS acquisition strategy.

GAO noted that: (1) the JTRS program is in a start-up stage; (2) DOD has directed the services to stop development of new radio-based programs but has granted a limited number of waivers to meet near-term requirements because JTRS products are not yet available; (3) DOD is developing a JTRS architecture and detailed refinements to its preliminary acquisition strategy; (4) DOD is scheduled to reach a major decision point in October 2000, when it is expected to approve the architecture and major revisions to the acquisition strategy; (5) the revised acquisition strategy is expected to define JTRS products, provide cost estimates for them, and allow development of an estimated total program cost; (6) following this, the services are expected to finalize their plans to replace existing radios with JTRS products; (7) DOD then expects the services to begin procuring JTRS products with JTRS Joint Program Office support; (8) DOD must successfully address three key challenges to achieve its program objectives; and (9) these challenges are: (a) completing a plan to develop key technologies not available from commercial sources or other DOD radio programs and integrating these new technologies into JTRS products; (b) defining an architecture that will be acceptable to commercial industry, be valid across a wide range of operating scenarios, and be useful to the services in developing plans to replace existing radio systems; and (c) defining interoperability requirements and establishing a strategy to procure and test products that meet these requirements.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has incorporated GAO findings into its program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should develop a JTRS technology plan for approval at the October 2000 major decision point that: (a) addresses the specific limitations of commercial and DOD technology in satisfying current and future JTRS requirements; (b) establishes standards for assessing the maturity of JTRS technology; and (c) coordinates relevant DOD research and development programs to focus on JTRS; establish specific milestones for assessing the commercial and technical feasibility of the single architecture approach and develop alternative architectures if indicated by the results of these assessments; and identify, as a priority initiative, the precise requirements for interoperability among tactical radio communications systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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