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Tue Jun 19, 2012, 10:10 AM

How to blow $6 billion on a tech project (actually a LOT more)

In 1997, the Defense Department began its quest for the perfect family of radios: software-defined radios that, like computers, could be reprogrammed for different missions and could communicate with everything the US military used. Digital signal processing could adaptively use available radio spectrum based on the needs of the moment, turning soldiers, tanks, planes, and ships into nodes of a broadband radio-based network.

The goal was to solve radio problems like this one in Afghanistan, detailed by the Center for Public Integrity in January 2012. Soldiers who watched an ambush forming on a ridge nearby found themselves limited by the hugely variable needs of their many radio systems:

They had short-range models for talking with the reconstruction team; longer-range versions for reaching headquarters 25 miles away; and a backup satellite radio in case the mountains blocked the transmission. An Air Force controller carried his own radio for talking to jet fighters overhead and a separate radio for downloading streaming video from the aircraft. Some of these radios worked only while the troopers were stationary; others were simply too cumbersome to operate on the move.
But the program meant to fix the mess, called the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), instead became a massive 15-year software and hardware development mess of its own, involving five sub-programs and multiple multi-billion dollar contracts. It has been a financial disaster for the DOD. Billions were thrown away on technology that will never see the light of day, despite multiple heroic efforts to pull the project back from the brink of disaster.

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/06/how-to-blow-6-billion-on-a-tech-project/


Back in the day I worked for a small company competing to provide the LCDs for the first prototypes for this radio. In retrospect, I think this was another sinkhole the taxpayers poured billions into. When completed over a year ago, it was found to be unusable unless you're in Montana type climate. An off the shelf purchase from Harris proved to be superior for only a few thousand each.

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Reply How to blow $6 billion on a tech project (actually a LOT more) (Original post)
DainBramaged Jun 2012 OP
corkhead Jun 2012 #1
dkf Jun 2012 #2
Stargazer09 Jun 2012 #3
eppur_se_muova Jun 2012 #4

Response to DainBramaged (Original post)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 10:19 AM

1. but as a transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to the Military Industrial Complex

it was a resounding success

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Response to DainBramaged (Original post)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 10:24 AM

2. So maybe this one thing didn't pan out...

 

Defense has contributed enough to tech advancement that I can't say I am very upset about it.

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Response to DainBramaged (Original post)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 11:20 AM

3. I can't fault them for trying

I have an amateur radio license. Even the best radio in the world will fail if you can't get the signal where you need it to be.

I can only imagine how the terrain of Afghanistan would cause havoc on any radio system.

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Response to DainBramaged (Original post)

Tue Jun 19, 2012, 12:20 PM

4. I thought this would be about our high-tech border fence ...

Sorry, I was thinking of a different $6 billion.

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