The Army’s long-awaited program to outfit soldiers with wearable computers isn’t exactly dead. But it’s in a state of suspended animation while Pentagon officials figure out if it needs a brain transplant.
Debi Dawson, a spokeswoman for the Army office overseeing the Nett Warrior program, confirms that the Army has put the multi-million effort on pause. “It has not been cancelled,” Dawson emphasizes.
But it smells like the Pentagon is reconsidering the purpose of Nett Warrior in a fundamental way. The idea behind it is to give soldiers a suite of digitized maps, cameras, computers and communication tools that they can strap to their kit and to stay connected during the fog of war.
The Army has worked on various incarnations of Nett Warrior for almost two decades, without success, while the gear weighs down soldiers with about eight extra pounds of equipment. If that wasn’t enough, commercially available smartphones now do everything the Army wants Nett Warrior to do, and more.
Now, a Pentagon acquisition group called the Configuration Steering Board has paused Nett Warrior for a possible brain transplant. The board is looking “for opportunities to infuse existing government devices” into the program, Dawson tells Danger Room, like commercially available smartphones and tablets, or the military’s voice-n-data Joint Tactical Radio System. It’s possible the board could recommend that the Army tear up the designs for Nett Warrior and reconfigure it around, essentially, an iPhone.