Joint Tactical Radio System pushing for innovation from small businesses

Nov. 1, 2008
BOSTON–Looking to spur technology development, officials from the Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) Joint Executive Program Office (JPEO) in San Diego are pursuing ideas from small businesses and universities.

By John McHale

BOSTON–Looking to spur technology development, officials from the Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) Joint Executive Program Office (JPEO) in San Diego are pursuing ideas from small businesses and universities.

The current funding focus of JTRS is on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) projects, said Jason Galetti, lead for the government client practice at the JTRS JPEO, during a presentation at the SDR Forum Workshop, “Government and Industry R&D Agendas for Next Generation Radio,” last month in Boston.

Galetti’s presentation was titled “JTRS Vision for Technology Insertion.” During his talk, he said that JTRS leaders believe this innovation will come from a technology push toward industry and academia, rather than through government acquisition and operational requirements.

SBIRs and STTRs are some of the best vehicles for that task, Galetti continued.

More than 67 SBIR/STTR contracts have been awarded since JTRS first got involved in the program, Galetti continued. Contracts awarded were focused on all aspects of wireless communications and networking technology, he added.

Some of the future capabilities JTRS leaders are looking to develop through SBIRs and STTRs include additional waveforms for enhanced networking; beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) capability; interoperability in the United Kingdom and domestically with U.S. homeland security elements; and enhanced performance in crowded spectrum environments when coexisting with other emitting electronics–such as radar, electronic warfare devices, and satellite communications among others, Galetti said.

Galetti did note, however, that these projects “are initiated only if they have an identified planned influence to JTRS capabilities and a switch path into an acquisition program of record.”

JTRS programs need these initiatives because “many of the want-to-have JTRS capabilities desired by the warfighter strain the capability of available commercial technology,” Galetti said.

This is where SBIR and STTR come in–they provide “funding to small businesses for applied research or advanced technology development,” Galetti said.

The request for proposals (RFPs), proposal evaluations, and oversight of projects for JTRS SBIR programs are performed by the appropriate program office or cognizant lab staff, Galetti said. Prime contractors may also be integrated the switch to an end product, he said.

The JTRS programming offices include: the Ground Mobile Radio (GMR); Handheld, Manpack, Small form fit (HMS); Network Enterprise Domain (NED); Airborne, Maritime, and Fixed (AMF); and the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS).

JTRS prime contractors include Boeing, Rockwell Collins, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Thales, Harris, ViaSAT, Raytheon, and ITT.

SBIR projects have three program phases. Phase I covers project feasibility and lasts six months with as much as $100,000 in funding, Galetti said.

Phase II is focused on developing prototypes and lasts two years with as much as $750,000 in funding available per project, Galetti continued.

The third phase targets commercialization of the technology and uses non-SBIR funds in the military and/or private sector, Galetti said. The U.S. Navy “focuses on military transitions, he added.

“Amounts may exceed award values where appropriate for a particular project,” Galetti noted.

STTR, the other funding opportunity Galetti focused on, “is similar in concept and execution to the SBIR program, but its purpose is to use the intellectual capital at universities, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), or other domestic nonprofit research organizations–not including DOD [Department of Defense] labs,” he explained. STTR’s three phases “mirror that of the SBIR program,” Galetti added.

Under an STTR, technology transitions from academia or FFRDC-like labs to small businesses for commercial exploitation and use by the defense acquisition community, Galetti noted.

“JTRS-related science and technology funding is available primarily through the SBIR and STTR program,” Galetti said.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) administers the program. Galetti recommended looking for SBIR and STTR Topic RFPs on the ONR Web site at and searching for the keyword “JTRS” within the SBIR/STTR RFPs.

“Before submitting your proposal, it is recommended that you telephone the technical point of contact listed in the RFP and discuss the topic,” Galetti noted.

“We are always collecting ideas for SBIR/STTR topics and identifying technology needs,” Galetti continued. Since SBIRs/STTRs have separate funding, the programs get their research and development cost free, he added.

“RFPs are released several times per year, however we do not participate in every RFP cycle,” Galetti said.

In addition to small businesses, JTRS program leaders want to “build relationships with academic institutions to use their research for next-generation JTRS product lines, and attract students into the software defined radio field,” Galetti said.

Along those lines, JTRS formed a partnership with the Calif. Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at the University of Calif. in San Diego.

Galetti said the school’s engineering graduate program is “among the strongest in the wireless communications and networking field. It is funded to develop next-generation technologies specifically for the JTRS Software Communications Architecture (SCA) using post-doctorate staff and graduate students, he added.

For more information on the Calit2 partnership, visit

Galetti also directed the audience to attend the upcoming JTRS Science & Technology Forums (JSTeFs). The JSTeF “is a data exchange among academia, labs, small businesses, major systems vendors, and government management,” he said.

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