PHILADELPHIA — U.S. Army officials are considering what’s next for an initiative known as radio as a service, after receiving feedback from industry that swung from enthusiasm to skepticism.
The Army published a request for information regarding the as-a-service tack, a potential pivot away from the traditional means of buying and maintaining radios, and received 15 responses by March.
Input ranged from “folks wanting to be the the manager of the process, all the way to folks providing us everything that a lower tactical network needs,” Col. Shermoan Daiyaan, the project manager for tactical radios at the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, said May 24 at an industry conference in Philadelphia.
At the same time, other vendors came “back and said, ‘Nope, we’re not going to play,’” Daiyaan said. “That was a response, and that’s data. We’ll appreciate that and take that to heart.”
The Army has hundreds of thousands of radios — too many to quickly and cost-effectively modernize given security deadlines and constant competition with China and Russia, which have sophisticated signals intelligence that can cue onto communications. Service leaders have said the as-a-service method, while experimental, could drive down costs and boost adaptability.
As initially teased in December by Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo, radio as a service would be more akin to a subscription offered by some makers of consumer products. It could mirror other deals in which companies furnish goods and services on a rolling basis, keep them up to date and handle quality control.
“We left that RFI very open, very generic. We approached it from: We don’t want to shape your response,” Daiyaan said. “It’s such a novel idea that we didn’t want to take things off the table.”
The colonel expects to speak with senior leaders about the effort in the coming weeks. PEO C3T is tasked with overhauling the Army’s battlefield connectivity tools.
“What we’re trying to figure out is if there’s something in there to explore,” Daiyaan said. “I believe there’s something there to explore.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.