Raytheon resumes work on the Next-Generation Jammer: was a seven-month delay worth it?

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 4 Feb. 2014. Most of us welcome competition among private companies -- particularly in the U.S. defense industry -- for big government jobs to ensure that taxpayers get the best deal and the best quality possible. Still, I wonder at what stage does tooth-and-nail competition for defense contracts become destructive not only for the companies involved, but also -- and most importantly -- for the nation's defense?

I'm thinking here about the U.S. Navy's Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) program, which is one of the U.S. military's most important initiatives as we move into a new era of electronic warfare (EW) and cyber warfare.

The NGJ program, won by the Raytheon Co. Space and Airborne Systems segment in McKinney, Texas, is resuming after a delay of seven months due to a protest of the contract award by Raytheon rival BAE Systems, whose experts claimed that the Navy improperly considered NGJ cost and technology proposals from NGJ competitors.

Related: Raytheon to resume work on NGJ after BAE Systems protest held program up for nearly seven months

Officials of the Naval Air Systems at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., chose Raytheon for the NGJ program early last July, and by late that month Raytheon's work on the program was halted due to the BAE Systems protest.

At the time experts thought the NGJ program might be held up for a few months. As it happened, however, the program was delayed for more than half a year, and came at a time when tight U.S. military budgets are yielding precious-few big contracts to sustain a domestic defense industry that continues to be hurt by sequestration, industry consolidation, employee layoffs, and other symptoms of a neglected and shrinking military.

Related: BAE Systems protest could hold up Navy Raytheon NGJ program for three months or more

I understand contract protests, I really do. Who's to say if BAE Systems was on solid ground in filing its protest? Still, we have to look at the results. Were the U.S. military and defense industry helped or hurt by a seven-month delay in a major electronics program? I think it's clear that no one is better off.

Defense companies have to compete strongly if taxpayers are to get the best military forces possible. Still, companies ought to remember that they're on the same side. These companies exist to make profits that enable them to perform cutting-edge research, development, and manufacturing that retains the U.S. military as one of the strongest in the world.

Related: Navy chooses Raytheon to build Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) for EA-18G and other aircraft

Global threats are changing quickly, and come from a variety of conventional and non-conventional adversaries. We live in a dangerous world, and electronic warfare and cyber warfare are on the leading edge of meeting these new threats. In this, the NGJ program is a key ingredient.

I'm grateful to see the Next-Generation Jammer program moving forward, finally, and I regret the time lost in its development.

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