Odds on Northrop for $45 million Defence deal

A single vendor will be involved, but there will be opportunities for multiple vendors to provide applications over time, says Defence Force

Northrop Grumman appears to be the favourite to provide the core Joint Command and Control System (JCCS) for the New Zealand Defence Force, in a project expected to cost around $45 million.

A recommendation to Cabinet had been expected late last year, following a Defence Force team visit to the US in October, but that has been delayed. Defence’s executive capability board will meet early in April to endorse what director of capability development Captain Andy Watts describes as the “network-enabled capability strategy”.

“There’s another layer of governance to go through first,” he says.

According to Watts, the board will then prepare a paper for endorsement, by the Cabinet, which the board expects to deliver within the subsequent month, depending on the Minister of Defence’s availability.

A single vendor will be involved, but there will be opportunities for multiple vendors to provide applications over time, Watts says.

When asked to confirm industry speculation that Northrop Grumman was likely to win the core business, Watts said it was the prime vendor for “equivalent” US systems.

The network-enabled capability strategy is based on open standards, which will allow multiple technologies, such as satellite communications — a potential $100 million dollar project in its own right — radio and training, to be integrated into the JCCS. There are two current major standards: the Defence Information Infrastructure Operational Environment and a separate NATO standard. The two are expected to merge over the next five years.

Plans for a joint command and control system have been on Defence’s books for at least 10 years. Earlier, New Zealand acquired the maritime-focused Global Command and Control System, developed by the US Department of Defense from Northrop technology.

The endless delays over the decade are largely the result of territorial in-fighting between the three service arms, over what would suit each individually. Last year, Prime Minister Helen Clark told Defence to get on with it.

Watts said in an interview with Computerworld last year that Defence had needed to re-assess its requirements five years ago in light of a technological move to open architectures.

“We need a common operating environment, with open standards on which we can populate applications.”

He indicated that Defence expected to go to industry in the second quarter of 2007, but this will now almost certainly be delayed.

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