Pentagon cancels $15.9 billion battlefield radio program

Officials seek industry-developed replacement for broadband system after spiraling costs trigger termination.

The Defense Department formally terminated a more than decade old, $15.9 billion program to develop a radio capable of transmitting broadband data on the battlefield in a letter to Congress on Thursday, Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan, an Air Force spokeswoman, told Nextgov.

Frank Kendall, acting undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, wrote to Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, saying the per unit cost for the radios had spiraled after Defense scaled back plans to buy 86,209 to 10,293. The reduction triggered a congressional mandate for termination of any program whose cost has grown by more than 25 percent over the original estimate.

Kendall said the Pentagon now plans to adopt a nondevelopmental strategy to acquire radios from industry that can deliver terrestrial broadband services on the battlefield using the Wideband Networking Waveform, software developed and owned by the government. The waveform can transmit data at rates up to 2 megabytes per second.

Paul Mehney, a spokesman for the Army's Program Executive Office Integration, said the service is committed to using the Wideband Networking Waveform to satisfy its tactical broadband data requirements.

The Army Directorate for Systems of Systems Integration released a notice to industry Tuesday seeking sources for alternative radios that can operate on the government-owned wideband waveform and the narrow band Soldier Radio Waveform to be evaluated at a network integration exercise at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in April 2012.

Industry sources said this initiative dovetails with a project kicked off last April by the Joint Tactical Radio System Program Executive Office to seek out industry developed broadband radios that can run on the broadband waveform.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, vice president of government business development for RF communications at Harris Corp., said the company has already started porting the broadband software to its An/PRC-117 multiband radio and can meet the Army's deadline to deliver the radio for the White Sands tests next spring at a "competitive price," which he declined to specify.

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