Modernizing the Army's modernization plan

June 29, 2009 at 1:21 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- U.S. Department of Defense officials ordered an assessment of the Pentagon's ground combat vehicle program that effectively causes massive changes to the U.S. Army's modernization plan.

Ashton Carter, undersecretary for acquisition, issued a memorandum last week that makes the Pentagon's Future Combat Systems Brigade Combat Team, a $160 billion modernization plan, a thing of the past.

Implementation of the plan was being led by Boeing and Science Applications International Corp. The program involved subcontractors from more than 500 companies in 41 states.

As envisioned, FCS was to provide fast and flexible fighting brigades that utilized ground sensors, drone aircraft and unmanned ground vehicles in addition to manned ground vehicles. Development was to have been completed by 2030.

Introduced in 2003, by 2005 the program was getting hit by budget cuts as other expenditures -- including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- took precedence. Recent months had seen even more pointed comments as to the efficacy of the program.

The changes announced last week come after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly expressed concerns about the program.

"In making decisions for the fiscal 2010 Gates expressed a specific concern that the portion of the FCS program to field new manned combat vehicles did not adequately reflect the lessons of counterinsurgency and close quarters combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," the Pentagon release stated. "He was further troubled by the terms of the current single contract covering the whole FCS effort. The restructuring … addresses these issues."

One of the first indications the FCS was truly in trouble came in April when Gates ended the FCS's Manned Ground Vehicle section. That cut $87 billion from the Defense Department's 2010 budget. Even with the secretary's steps, however, Congress could put spending for the programs in the budget.

But Carter's release of last week was very clear about the department's intentions, saying the acquisition decision memorandum "directs the Army to identify the most efficient means to end the manned ground vehicle development effort with the least cost to the taxpayer and to use work already completed in any follow-on ground combat vehicle developmental programs."

Information developed under the MGV program will be used to develop new combat vehicles over the next seven years.

For now, the FCS is being changed to the Brigade Combat Team Modernization Strategy. The Pentagon has put together a task force to review "force designs, the BCT modernization plan, network integrated architectures, and ground combat vehicle operational requirements," the department's release stated.

"The BCT modernization strategy will yield a versatile mix of BCTs that will leverage mobility, protection, information, and precision fires to conduct effective operations across the spectrum of conflict," said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Vane.

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