It's been called the most ambitious military effort since the Manhattan Project, and the centerpiece of Donald Rumsfeld's plans to overhaul America's armed forces: a $92 billion push to change almost everything about the Army by 2010, from the guns GIs carry, to the officers they salute, to the tanks they drive.Now, a new congressional report is alleging that the "Future Combat Systems" program is poised for major delays and a financial train wreck. Worst of all, the report claims, the Army knew this was going to happen all along."Army officials acknowledge that (2010) is an ambitious date and that the program was not really ready for system development and demonstration when it was approved. However, the officials believe it was necessary to create 'irreversible momentum' for the program," reads the report from the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigational arm. "FCS is at significant risk for not delivering required capability within budgeted resources."The Army and Boeing, one of Future Combat Systems' two main contractors, both say the sprawling project is on track. The congressional report is off-base, they assert."We have a good plan in place to address the concerns over technology maturity," said one Army source close to the project. Congress was "fully briefed up front" about the risks and pace of FCS' development.But outside military analysts and former Pentagon officials are inclined to agree with the GAO's take on the Army effort. And they see it as the latest case of the military pouring countless billions into weapons systems before they're ready to go."For years, the GAO has been trying to explain in kindergarten-simple terms to the Pentagon that you should make something and test it before you buy it. But year after year, the process goes on. And the situation is getting worse," said Marcus Corbin, with the Center for Defense Information.My Wired News article has details.THERE'S MORE: FCS' delay "probably does not matter since the US military is so far ahead of the rest of the world that will we will win under any circumstances," notes GlobalSecurity.org's John Pike. But "it matters in the sense that the poor old long suffering taxpayers are getting taken to the cleaners again."The missile defense system is probably the best-known of these bloated programs. But "these are not just missile defense mistakes," Pike notes. "They are systemic to any number of major defense and space programs of the past decade, all of which were awarded under conditions of intense competition, and all of which promised unrealistic costs saving due to using a single company as a systems integrator."Referring to two recently-cancelled, high-profile Army programs, Project on Government Oversight's Eric Miller e-mails, "If you think the Comanche helicopter and Crusader Armored Vehicle programs were financial and technical disasters, wait until you see the Future Combat System program play out in future years. Its hardly going out on a limb to say FCS is going to end up costing more than predicted, and as a result well likely get fewer numbers of weapons systems and dumb down technologies."Mentioning the Army's controversial new fleet of light armored vehicles, the Brookings Institution's Mike O'Hanlon asks, "We are already building a half dozen Stryker brigades -- why not get some use out of them before rushing to the next thing, and learn a bit from them? Also, the Abrams/Bradley heavy Army is still performing well and its equipment is not yet showing major signs of disrepair or obsolescence.""I can't think in the 23 years I've sat here of a system more fraught with risk," Rep. John Spratt, (D-SC) recently told Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Yakovac.
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