Army Information Network Contract Lures Big Guns
Army Information Network Contract Lures Big Guns<@VM>Army Warfighter Information Network-Tactical
By Nick Wakeman
The Army's planned $5.2 billion contract to build a communications infrastructure for its tactical command and control systems is drawing some of the heaviest hitters in the systems integration and communications business.
General Dynamics Corp. of Falls Church, Va., and TRW Inc. of Cleveland have both declared their intent to bid as primes on the contract, which is valued at $5.2 billion over 15 years.
On the sidelines but closely following the development of the contract are companies such as AT&T Corp., Basking Ridge, N.J.; Boeing Co., Seattle; Litton-PRC Inc., McLean, Va.; Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md.; and Raytheon Co., Lexington, Mass.
"We really see this as a major systems integration job that goes right to the core of our capabilities," said Syed Akbar, director of battlefield information technology for TRW.
The Army effort, known as the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical (WIN-T), will serve as the communications backbone for the Army's various tactical command and control systems. A request for proposals is expected to be released in August or September, leading to an award by the end of 2001.
The winning contractor will build a communications network that can provide secure voice, video and data services. WIN-T's services also have to be highly mobile and use cellular, line-of-sight radio and satellite communications.
WIN-T will connect various command and control systems that provide data on intelligence, combat, positioning on the battlefield, air defense, logistics and other support services.
"Think of it as connecting everything from your supply areas down almost to the foxhole," said Tom Nugent, deputy program manager for WIN-T at the Army's Communications and Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, N.J.
"One of the things the Army found in Desert Storm is that the current [communications] system is not able to keep up with fast-moving troops," Akbar said.
TRW has put together a team that includes Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla., ITT Industries Inc. of White Plains, N.Y., L-3 Communications Inc. of New York, Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, Sprint Corp. of Westwood, Kan., and SAIC subsidiary Telcordia Technologies Inc., of Morristown, N.J.
Carnegie Mellon's role on the team will be to help with research and development on new technologies, Akbar said.
With the technology currently in the field, the Army has to "stop, dismount and set up a command center," said Ancil Hicks, General Dynamics acquisition manager for WIN-T. His company has signed on Motorola Inc. of Schaumburg, Ill., as its major teammate but is in "discussions with a number of other players."
Through its acquisition of GTE's government information technology units in September, General Dynamics is considered the incumbent on the project. GTE developed the Mobile Subscriber Equipment system for Army in the 1980s, Hicks said.
"But with WIN-T they will have significantly enhanced capabilities in the field," he said.
Nugent said that the Mobile Subscriber Equipment system is used mostly for voice communications and has limited data networking capability. "It just doesn't match the advanced communications on the commercial side," he said. "We want to make that same leap."
The contract is part of the military's efforts to create a digitized battlefield, said Kent Schneider, vice president and general manager of command and control systems for PRC. "The key is having the ability to share information across all your entities," he said.
The problem that the Army faces is that its various command and control systems cannot share their information, said Paul Michaud, director of business development for SATCOM Systems, a unit of Raytheon.
"WIN-T is going to be the communications pipe that will enable the Army's command and control systems to perform," TRW's Hicks said. "If you don't have something that can support those systems, then you can't get the full use and benefit out of them."
Litton-PRC, Raytheon and the other companies that have not announced their bidding strategies are waiting until more of the Army's acquisition plan is finalized later this spring before making a decision on how to pursue the contract, company executives said.
"If you look at the initial concept, what they are trying to do is integrate a system of systems," said Jim Olivo, manager of tactical communications for Boeing.
According to a draft of the Army's Concept of Operation, the service needs a broad "spectrum of information services: video, graphics data, imagery, collaborative planning tools, remote interactive battlefield operating systems and distributed databases."
To accomplish this, the Army is putting a heavy emphasis on commercial, off-the-shelf technology, or COTS, and on commercial best practices, said Michael Kush, vice president of business development for VGS Inc., a small systems integrator in Fairfax, Va. Kush, who formerly served as vice president of marketing and strategy for Electronic Data Systems Corp., led the research efforts by the Electronics Industries Alliance to develop its 1999 forecast on defense IT spending.
"The key for industry is that the Army is very serious about using COTS and best commercial practices," he said. "The Army realizes that it has to provide an incentive to industry to get them to want to play in the government market."
Using commercially available technologies also should help the Army reduce costs while enhancing service, Nugent said.
The Army has formed an Integrated Program Team to share what it wants with industry officials. The team has met once with interested companies and plans at least two more meetings before the request for proposals is issued in late summer.
The idea is to create a forum where the Army and industry can discuss what the Army is trying to accomplish and what industry can do to meet the service's needs, Nugent said. The end result should be a better and more realistic RFP.
"We want to make sure that industry fully understands what we want, so there are no surprises," Nugent said. Value:
Estimated at $5.2 billion over 15 yearsProgram Goal:
Provide a communications backbone for secure and mobile voice, video and data services for tactical command and control systems.Announced Teams:
General Dynamics team
Motorola Inc.TRW Inc. team
Carnegie Mellon University
ITT Industries Inc.
L-3 Communications Inc.
Telcordia Technologies Inc.