On Thursday, the US Army’s chief of staff told legislators that he isn’t confident that the service’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) can withstand the hardships of battle.
A part of the Army’s 2003 Future Combat Systems (FCS) effort, the service attempted to save WIN-T in 2009 after FCS was canceled. The $6 billion program led by General Dynamics Corp was put in place to create secure communication on the battlefield for mobile mounted forces.
During a May 25 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) told Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that he had concerns about WIN-T’s effectiveness.
He said, "I have seen credible reports that WIN-T has ineffective line-of-sight communications … It is too fragile to survive in a contested environment and has an electromagnetic signature so loud that it practically would call for enemy artillery on the top of its user’s heads," according to DOD Buzz.
Cotton asked the chief if he had heard similar reports, and Milley replied that he shared his concerns and that he’s leading "a rigorous, thorough and painful review of the entire communications [and] electromagnetic capability of the US Army," including WIN-T.
"Frankly, my concern is these systems may or may not work in the conditions of combat that I envision in the future," he said. "[I]t is fragile and it is vulnerable, so we are taking a very, very deep, hard, wide look."
Milley said that the review should be complete in another four to six weeks, and that he had received correspondence from Congress asking to accelerate the program.
"I am not going to accelerate it until I am convinced it will work in combat against the enemies of our country that may be coming in the future," Milley declared.
Along with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Cotton said that the Army should make a decision about WIN-T’s future soon, as it has already cost $6 billion over the last decade, saying, "If the program is not working, it doesn’t seem that we should be accelerating more money into it until we can get it to work or find a replacement."
Mcain called the program a "debacle" and bemoaned what he called the Army’s "disastrous acquisition record over the last two decades," according to The Hill.
The Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman added, "This program — I urge my colleagues, if they don't pay any attention to anything I say today — this program has cost the taxpayer over $6 billion, and has yet to meet the requirements of our war fighters. Six billion."
The Army describes WIN-T as the service’s "tactical communications network backbone that enables mission command and secure reliable voice, video and data communications anytime, anywhere. Leveraging both satellite and line-of-sight capabilities for optimum efficiency, effectiveness and operational flexibility, the WIN-T network provides the data ‘pipe’ that other communication and mission command systems need to connect into in order to operate."