ARMY READY TO UNPLUG RADIO PROJECT

Boeing has a whole lot more to worry about today than its weak earnings this quarter. Another giant Boeing defense contract is in deep, deep trouble.jtrs.jpgFirst, the company came under fire for its shady, $23.5 billion deal to lease tankers to the Air Force -- and fleece $5.6 billion from taxpayers. Then, projected costs for the its hulking Army modernization effort, Future Combat Systems, grew from $92 billion to a possible $450 billion (all while operating under some quirky purchasing rules that kept government auditors from getting too nosy).Now, Inside Defense reports, "the Army has put Boeing on notice that within 30 days, the government could terminate" the company's $15 billion contract to replace 750,000 old-school radios with software-based models.The Army stopped work on the Joint Tactical Radio System ("Jitters") back in January -- partly because of technical screw-ups, partly because of trouble getting the National Security Agency to sign off on the encryption algorithms."The government is also concerned that the contractor won't be able to produce a radio that meets the Army's requirements for processing, heat dispersion, size, weight and power. In addition, the software remains immature, and the contractor lacks proper controls," Inside Defense says.For all these reasons, Boeing now has 30 days to come up with a reason why the Army should not pull the plug on the Jitters contract.If that happens, it won't just be a couple of Boeing execs who suffer the consequences. Soldiers today need a backpack full of radios to talk to their commanders and comrades. Jitters was supposed to be the way to reduce that load, and get a single communication system for G.I.s, marines, sailors, and airmen. But thanks to another blown defense contract, it looks like they're still going to be forced to carry that burden.THERE'S MORE: The Washington Post's take is here.

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