More than a dozen lawmakers are pressing the U.S. Army to explain its plans to modernize tens of thousands of Humvees slated to make up the majority of the service's light vehicle fleet through 2050.
In an Oct. 16 letter to Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, a group of 16 senators, including Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, requested the "status of the Army's execution of the 2014 Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy."
"It contemplates a massive investment of billions of taxpayer dollars that would address a critical set of operational capabilities for the next 20 years," the letter states.
The Army awarded Oshkosh Corp., a $6.7 billion contract to build the first 17,000 production models of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the long-awaited replacement for the Humvee.
The contract is currently under protest by JLTV competitor Lockheed Martin Corp., and the Government Accountability Office is expected to rule on the protest in December.
But the Army only plans to buy more than 49,000 JLTVs to replace about a third of the Humvee fleet.
Lawmakers maintain that the Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy "specifically identifies High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or HMMWV, recapitalization" as a means for supporting Homeland defense missions, the letter states.
"Against this backdrop, the Army's recent award of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle requires clarity about how the Army will recapitalize and maintain the readiness of its HMMWV fleet which today consists of more than 130,000 units," according to the letter. "Specifically, what are the near-term requirements to recapitalize and maintain the legacy HMMWV fleet?"
This is the latest wrinkle in the Army's attempt to provide the operational force with modern tactical vehicles that surpass the Cold-War era HMMWV.
But a fleet consisting of new JLTVs and modernized HMMWVs alone will not satisfy the needs of the Army's most deployable forces.
In mid-September, Army officials at the Maneuver Conference at Fort Benning, Georgia emphasized that Army light infantry units need a transportable, ultra-light combat vehicle that can they can take into a forced-entry operation.
Leaders argued that the number-one priority for the combat vehicle modernization strategy is mobility for the light forces.
Lawmakers, however, maintain that the HMMWV is currently the Army's "primary light tactical wheeled vehicle, used predominantly throughout the Army's Brigade Combat Teams as well as the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, according to the letter.
"The most modern configuration – the up-Armored HMMWV or Expanded Capacity Vehicle – remains the backbone for soldier transport and utility and according to the Army's own strategy, is projected to comprise nearly two-thirds of the light tactical vehicle fleet until 2050," the letter states. "As the Army deliberates the optimal way forward for HMMWV modernization, we urge consideration of existing programs that have already proven effective in delivering on time and under budget."
--Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com