Boutelle: Justify IT programs, or cuts loom

HERSHEY, PA. ' Any Army IT program, whether or not it's considered a "program of record," faces billions of dollars in cuts if it is found to be inconsistent with the Army's goal to extend the line of communications as the service adds additional combat brigades.

President Bush approved a plan to increase the Army's combat brigades from the current 33 up to 43, with an option to add more. Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, Army chief information officer, said the mission is to make the combat brigades, which fall under 10 division areas in the Army, able to fight in a joint manner by better networking the groups.

"The Army is out looking at every program, pulling billions of dollars out of programs to change 10 division areas in the Army," Boutelle said yesterday at the Army Small Computer Program's annual IT conference. "The heck with the programs of record. If the warfighter needs it, we're sending it."

Quoting Army chief of staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Boutelle said the Army, working with other services, must "relentlessly address the architectures, protocols and systems of a redundant, nonterrestrial network capable of providing the focused bandwidth."

Boutelle added that if a program manager can't detail that a system meets that requirement, the program could face billions of dollars in cuts.

"If you can't detail that when you come to the Pentagon, they're going to use your money for another program that can," he said.

Most of the criticisms in the after-action reports from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom dealt with the lack of communications that troops had on the move. Boutelle said the Army lost several great systems in OIF, not because the applications weren't capable, but because with each of them, the comms dropped on the rapid move to Baghdad.

"If your system doesn't work in non-line-of-sight, it doesn't have a lot of value to us right now," Boutelle said.

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