Army plan to accelerate vital systems buys falters

An Army program designed to hasten the purchase of 11 high-priority systems for the
service’s digital battlefield initiative has fallen short of its objectives,
according to a recent General Accounting Office report.

The Army began the Warfighting Rapid Acquisition Program in 1996 to speed up the
fielding of new technologies needed by soldiers. By making funds available faster than
would be the case through the standard budget process, WRAP was supposed to jump-start
technologies under development

“Although some technologies may be fielded sooner because of WRAP, in most cases,
the program will not speed up fielding as much as originally expected,” GAO said in
its report, Army Modernization: The Warfighting Rapid Acquisition Program Needs More
Specific Guidance.

GAO found that three of the 11 initial WRAP initiatives—Mortar Fire Control
System, the Gun Laying and Positioning System, and the Avenger Slew-to-Cue—will not
be part of the Army’s first digitized division slated for next year. The Army in the
past has justified funding for WRAP based on the urgent need to field these technologies
to the digitized 4th Infantry Division, GAO said.

Two of 11 initiatives—Applique and Tactical Internet—did not meet the
Army’s criterion that WRAP candidates be ready for production within two years, GAO
said. Although they are not expected to begin production until fiscal 2004, both were
approved by the Army as continued experimentation initiatives.

Applique and Tactical Internet combine to form an Army system called Force XXI Battle
Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2), which includes notebooks, software, Global Positioning
System receivers and communications connectors. Army officials tout FBCB2 officials as the
backbone of the service’s first digitized division.

Congress in the service’s fiscal 1997 Defense budget allotted $50 million for the
first 11 WRAP initiatives, selected from 72 technologies tested at the Army’s March
1997 Task Force XXI Advanced Warfighting Experiment. WRAP subsequently received $99.9
million from Congress last year.

The Army requested $99.5 million this year for WRAP systems. But Congress approved only
$64.5 million.

Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on National Security, asked GAO to evaluate the WRAP initiative after
expressing concerns about the program. GAO concluded that the program has experienced
growing pains and lacked focus in the selection of technologies.

“The Army’s criteria for candidates were open-ended and do not ensure that
initiatives share a common set of characteristics,” GAO said.

GAO recommended that the Army issue guidance establishing minimum testing and
experimentation requirements for WRAP candidates.

George Schneiter, director of strategic and tactical systems in the Office of the Under
Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology, told GAO in a written response that
DOD partially concurred with the report’s recommendations. But Schneiter did not

“The Army is continuing to examine potential improvements to the WRAP–Force
XXI initiatives processes, including the schedules for candidate identification and
selection, the requirements for levels of testing and experimentation tailored to the
specific initiative, and the appropriate detail and frequency of reporting to OSD and the
Congress,” Schneiter said.

Although WRAP’s benefits are not yet fully realized, the Army considers the
program crucial for reducing the acquisition cycle for technologies to digitize the
battlefield, he said.

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