After criticisms, Army revamps Future Combat Systems'again

Army secretary Francis J. Harvey wants a contract that lets FCS deliver technologies to the field as soon as possible.

R.D. Ward

For the second time in less than a year, the Army is restructuring its Future Combat Systems program'this time on the heels of sharp criticism from legislators and an unflattering report by the Government Accountability Office.

After two months of review, Army secretary Francis J. Harvey announced earlier this month that the service would restructure the contractual and managerial aspects of the program designed to link 18 manned and unmanned weapons systems via a common network.

Harvey will establish an Army Modular Force Integration Office to ensure technologies are moved into troop systems as soon as they are available. Raymond Dubois, the Army's acting undersecretary, and Gen. Richard Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, will oversee the office.
The Army also will change the contract structure of the $107.9 billion FCS program.

During the first restructuring last July, officials said they would accelerate the rollout of certain FCS capabilities to current-force systems by 2008 or earlier. New radio waveforms as part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, voice over IP and some capabilities involving unmanned aerial vehicles would be included.

The Army sped up FCS last summer because soldiers needed the technologies more quickly for the war on terror and the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most recent changes come after legislators and GAO analysts voiced concerns with the program.

Paul L. Francis, director of acquisition and sourcing management at GAO, said the program faces network, developmental and financial challenges that continue to slow progress.

'Nearly two years after program launch and about $4.6 billion invested to date, requirements are not firm and only one of over 50 technologies is mature'activities that should have been done before the start of system development and demonstration,' Francis told a Senate subcommittee last month.

Francis said FCS' information network is dependent on the success of the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, two programs facing significant technical challenges and aggressive schedules that threaten the fielding of future force capabilities. JTRS and WIN-T are separate programs not included in FCS costs.

Adding to FCS' woes with GAO were questions over its contract vehicle use. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued that the Army needed a normal procurement structure with lead contractors Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego, rather than the so-called 'other transaction agreement' contract instrument.

The OTA structure allowed the Army and Boeing-SAIC to negotiate contract terms based on program requirements and their needs, Francis said. A traditional procurement vehicle has provisions that place limits on contract negotiations and allows the government to perform audits.

Under the restructuring, Harvey changed the contract vehicle from OTA to a Federal Acquisition Regulation-based contract, which falls under the Truth in Negotiations Act, the Procurement Integrity Act, Cost Accountability Standards and an Organizational Conflicts of Interest clause.

'The OTA was appropriate for the earlier phases of FCS, but with the implementation of the Army Modular Force Initiative and last summer's programmatic restructuring of the FCS program, we need a contractual arrangement that best ensures FCS is properly positioned in the modular force and that its technologies are spiraled in as soon as possible,' Harvey said.

McCain said he is pleased with the restructuring news.

'I am gratified by the Army Secretary's receptiveness to my concerns about the program, and I am looking forward to seeing precisely how the Army implements its stated commitment to ensuring that the interests of the taxpayer are preserved,' McCain said in a prepared statement.

Harvey and Army chief of staff Peter J. Schoomaker will perform at least three reviews of FCS each year.

Additionally, the Army Audit Agency, the Army Science Board and an outside panel of advisers will conduct periodic independent cost, schedule and technical viability assessments, according to Harvey's memo.

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above