Army disputes CBO's criticism of FCS

Service says program's technologies on schedule, budget

VEHICLE UPGRADE: An Army M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle on a security patrol in downtown Tal Afar, Iraq. CBO had suggested that the Army consider spiraling developing FCS technologies into existing Abrams and Bradley vehicles in an effort to trim program costs.

Courtesy of DEFENSELINK by PH1 Alan D. Monyelle, USN

The Army is rejecting a recent Congressional Budget Office report that questioned the Future Combat Systems program's prospective core capability and suggested that the maturity of the program's technologies was lagging as costs ballooned.

CBO's analysts were skeptical about FCS' ability to quickly deploy troops and equipment to far-flung theaters of operation, saying that even a fully developed and deployed FCS would not provide its significant advertised advantages.

An Army spokesperson, in an interview with GCN, hit back, claiming CBO's analysis was faulty and based on a lack of understanding of Army operational requirements. Lt. Col. William Wiggins said technology development was on track, that cost goals were being met and that the Army had no intention of dialing back its deployment plans.

FCS is designed to link manned and unmanned air and ground vehicles, unattended ground sensors, and a non-line-of-sight cannon-and-launch system via a common computer network known as the System of Systems Common Operating Environment and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program. FCS' lead systems integrator is a partnership between Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

The program has been wrought with difficulties as timelines have been shifted and it has been difficult to conceptualize. On top of that, Congress and the Government Accountability Office repeatedly have expressed concern over the program.

CBO warned that testing and development of lightweight manned vehicles was behind schedule, jeopardizing their Dec. 2014 deployment date.

'During the August 2006 In-Process Preliminary Design Review, critical FCS technologies were noted as maturing on or ahead of schedule,' Wiggins retorted. 'By December 2006, nearly 80 percent of critical FCS modernization technologies will be fully mature in accord with DOD standards. By October 2008, all critical technologies will have reached this standard.'

As for the CBO warning that the costs of the program could grow from $10 billion to $16 billion annually, Wiggins argued that the CBO projection was based on old stovepipe procurement models, which historically produced cost overruns and program delays.

'FCS modernization breaks this procurement paradigm,' he contended, 'by employing a more reliable, incremental approach to development. This incremental approach minimizes development risk by breaking the program down into more manageable parts, each of which is subject to a complete development cycle review.'

Nor is the Army considering alternatives to a full-scale FCS deployment, according to Wiggins. CBO had suggested that the Army consider spiraling developing FCS technologies into existing Abrams and Bradley vehicles to trim program costs.

These alternatives 'do not adequately modernize the Army,' Wiggins declared, 'and they include significant hidden costs not accounted for, or even acknowledged by, the CBO.'

The fact that FCS is trying to develop 18 integrated systems has significantly reduced system development and demonstration costs and schedules, according to Wiggins. SDD costs have been reduced by 37 percent as compared to older procurement models, he asserted, while shrinking the development-to-field timeline by about 30 percent.

'Single-system, piecemeal modernization, as opposed to comprehensive, synergistic, FCS modernization, is more costly and time consuming,' Wiggins said. 'Development costs for all eight FCS manned ground vehicles costs less than $5 billion. This is the same amount of money that it cost the Army to develop just two current-force vehicles, the Abrams tank and the Bradley fighting vehicle.'

The reason for this cost differential, according to Wiggins, is that 'traditional stovepipe procurements cannot exploit efficiencies from design and production commonality.'

About the Author

Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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