Despite the government shutdown and looming cuts to defense spending, the U.S. Army has managed to keep one of its major tactical modernization efforts moving forward with a $111 million contract award to General Dynamics C4 Systems.
The Defense Department approved Oct. 2 the continued deployment of the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, as officials were scrambling to find legal justification for recalling most of the 350,000 civilian DOD employees who had been furloughed as a result of the government shutdown.
WIN-T is the Army’s mobile battlefield network and is considered the centerpiece of the service’s network modernization. It provides mission-critical voice, video and data to soldiers, on-the-move in their vehicles. The Army deployed the so-called Increment 2 of the system in July to Afghanistan, where it went through its first successful combat patrol evaluation with the 4th Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division.
WIN-T Increment 2 reduces reliance on fixed infrastructure and connects all echelons of a brigade combat team down to the dismounted soldier. It provides initial on-the-move broadband networking capability using satellite and radio links.
The Pentagon’s approval of the Army’s follow-on order for additional network nodes comes amid the continued gridlock in Washington over the government shutdown, which began Oct. 1, and a looming battle over defense spending and entitlement programs in the fiscal 2014 budget.
In an Oct. 5 briefing with reporters, Robert F. Hale, DOD comptroller and chief financial officer, said the department will begin recalling more than three-quarters of those furloughed by the government shutdown because they qualify as essential employees under the Pay Our Military Act, or POMA, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on the eve of the shutdown.
Much of the work supporting the development of the $6 billion WIN-T program takes place at GDC4S facilities in Taunton, Mass. The company acknowledged in a press release the WIN-T program supports thousands of contractor employees, including those at 500 supplier companies.
A company spokesperson declined to comment on the current or potential impact of the shutdown on the program. “With regard to the federal shutdown, we are not commenting on any specific aspect of our operations,” the spokesperson said.
“WIN-T [Increment 2] is the backbone of the Soldier’s Network and this order ensures we continue the work of fielding this unprecedented system to soldiers throughout the Army, Reserves and National Guard,” said Chris Marzilli, president of General Dynamics C4 Systems, in a statement. “Without WIN-T Inc 2, soldiers simply do not have the communications capabilities this technology provides. We look forward to working with the Army to complete the production of its on-the-move network.”