Army seeks to speed selection of WIN-T contractor

The Army has asked the Defense Department for permission to expedite the process of choosing a contractor for its more than $10 billion Warfighter Information Network-Tactical project.

Last September, the Army awarded a $68 million contract to General Dynamics Corp. and a $63 million contract to Lockheed Martin Corp. to begin the development and demonstration phase of WIN-T. This phase involved both contractors running models and simulations of prototype systems, with the Army planning to sign on one of them to develop the mammoth project.

Army CIO Steven W. Boutelle said he is pushing to have the acquisition strategy for WIN-T altered so one of the contractors can soon be awarded a deal to build the system. The original schedule called for the contract award to come down in late 2005.

"We feel it's time to go to a single contractor and bring it in quicker," Boutelle explained yesterday at Army IT Day in McLean, Va., which was sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Northern Virginia chapter. "Let's move on faster. Otherwise, we'll get an irrelevant architecture."

The reason for the expedited schedule, Boutelle said, is that troops in Iraq need WIN-T capabilities today, not a few years down the line.

Through the WIN-T program, the Army plans to build a high-speed, high-capacity network for wired and wireless voice, data, video and imagery communications for soldiers on the battlefield. WIN-T will be the backbone of the multi-layered Future Combat Systems initiative.

"We're starting to spiral in capability early," Boutelle said. He mentioned capabilities such as VOIP that the Army's 3rd Infantry Division plans to take with them when they return to Iraq later this year.

WIN-T replaces the Tri-service Tactical Communications system, which is based on military technology from the 1970s. Signal battalions are required to use the system for most communications functions.

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