jtrs_small.jpgIt's been nearly three years since Boeing won an Army contract to develop the next generation of military radios. But neither the company nor its government partners have any idea how many billions it's going to cost, in the end, to build the Joint Tactical Radio System -- "Jitters" for short. (I've seen estimates as low as $5 billion, and as high as $15 billion. That's a major spread.)On Monday, the Army told Boeing in a letter than the mega-corporation had 30 days to give a good reason do to some 'splaining about why they let Jitters get so screwed up. The note also gave outsiders a peek into just how wrong Jitters has gone."It is impossible to predict with any confidence what the overall program will cost or the associated schedule," Defense Daily quotes the letter as saying. "Further, the government has not seen sufficient evidence of the contractor teams understanding of the scale of integration required for [Jitters' first phase] to ultimately achieve the program requirements. Nor has the industry team displayed sufficient ability to estimate a cost and schedule baseline and rigorously manage to that baseline."As noted earlier, Jitters is not some minor experiment. It's a cornerstone to the Army's modernization plans. Without it, soldiers are stuck using a jury-rigged collection of radios to talk. Figuring out how much the damn things are going to cost seems like a most basic of first steps. Three years into the program, it shouldn't be that hard to take.

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