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Research Questions

  1. How does the amount spent on research for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) compare with that spent by commercial firms on the long-term evolution (LTE) waveform?
  2. How did project personnel deal with system performance and technology risk issues?
  3. What events complicated coordination needs among programs and may have delayed the discovery of problems?

The report presents the results of two studies: The first compares the capabilities and development approaches used in the Joint Tactical Radio System wideband networking waveform (WNW) and the commercial long-term evolution waveform, and the second analyzes military acquisition programs that have repeatedly exceeded certain cost thresholds. The first study compares differences in system designs, technical requirements, intellectual property protection schemes, and cost in the development of WNW. It also examined how technical risks and challenging requirements contributed to schedule and cost increases. The second study attempts to identify unique characteristics of programs that overrun their budgets more than once.

Key Findings

Several Issues Make the Comparison Between JTRS and LTE Less Than Favorable for JTRS

  • There was not enough money spent on research, development, test, and engineering for JTRS.
  • The more evolutionary development approach employed by LTE program personnel enabled them to deal with system performance and technology risk issues as they came up.
  • The JTRS program structure separated hardware and software, which complicated coordination needs and delayed the discovery of problems in the JTRS program.
  • The JTRS program's use of the intellectual property model may have prevented the incorporation of needed technologies into the program, which could have reduced technical risks and performance.

Although the Two Programs Differ Significantly in Many Ways, They Share Some Common Technologies

  • The organizational structures of the two programs differed substantially.
  • Their development approaches and architectures also differed.
  • LTE had much higher development costs than JTRS WNW.
  • The two programs share common technologies relating to radio frequency schemes.
  • GMR and WNW development costs do not appear to have been exorbitant, given the challenging requirements originally established for the program.

Programs with multiple breaches did share some common characteristics.

  • Programs that breach once are not more likely to breach a second time.
  • No obvious cost growth trends suggest that a program might breach more than once.
  • Programs that breach more than once had technical issues that were not resolved by corrective actions taken at the first breach.
  • Programs with multiple breaches did share some common characteristics.


  • If WNW is to be scaled up to larger networks with more nodes, DoD should plan to spend additional research funds on the effort.
  • Given the limited research funds available, DoD should consider adapting LTE to meet its operational and security needs.
  • DoD information technology and communications should follow the LTE development model and pursue an evolutionary approach.
  • DoD should cast a wider technology net to incorporate the latest commercially developed advanced information technologies.
  • Because the sample size was small, additional research should be done to refine analysis of the common characteristics.

This research was sponsored by the Performance Assessments and Root Cause Analysis (PARCA) office, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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