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MCCAIN TARGETS "FUTURE COMBAT"

For years, Sen. John McCain has been ripping the Pentagon over its sweetheart deals with Boeing. Now, the Senator is going after the biggest deal of all -- the $127 billion Future Combat Systems initiative.NLOS_cannon.jpgFuture Combat Systems, or FCS, is the most complex, most expensive upgrade the American military as ever tried. It calls for the rebooting of almost every component of Army hardware, from armored vehicles to software-based radios to flying drones to the uniforms G.I.s wear. And Boeing -- which got into hot water over its, um, peculiar arrangement with the Air Force for leasing tankers -- is one of two companies overseeing the sprawling effort.Since FCS began in the late 90's, the project's technologies has been rejiggered, its deadlines have been shifted, and its goals have been reshaped.Next month, "Mr. McCain, a senior member of the Senate armed services committee, intends to look at the vast FCS program as part of a series of hearings on Pentagon procurement practices," the Financial Times reports. "Mr. McCain was concerned about the structure of the deal, in which the army has essentially outsourced management of the contract to Boeing, in addition to cost overruns... He is also expected to ask the Government Accountability Office [GAO], the oversight arm of Congress, to look into FCS."The GAO tore into the program and its managers this past April for lunging ahead with FCS, even when they knew its deadlines and technologies weren't at all realistic. What'll happen next, under McCain's direction, is anyone's guess. But I'm betting that there are a whole heap of problems just waiting to be uncovered here.THERE'S MORE: "I first requested documents regarding the [tanker lease] proposal in June 2003. Regrettably, since then the DoDs production of documents has been riddled by disruption, obfuscation and delay," McCain wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary on Saturday. "Some documents that were produced were doctored; others that should have been produced, were improperly withheld. To date, after months of assurances, partial production on only about 7 out of 36 request categories have been produced."AND MORE: FCS is "a huge program, and obviously we need to have a hearing on it. I have no preconceived notions about it," McCain told Inside the Army today after a Senate policy luncheon. "I'm not against it. I'm not for it. I'm not trying to do anything other than exercise our legitimate oversight of the program."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told Inside the Army he supported the idea of a hearing on FCS -- if only to help senators help the Army balance its budget, a task complicated by mounting bills from the war in Iraq and other operations. Hearings could help lawmakers evaluate whether certain technologies could be accelerated even more to help soldiers fight the war in Iraq, Sessions said.The new FCS right now, we need more [unmanned aerial vehicles] which are part of the Future Combat System, but we need them now in Iraq. So you might take some of the money from some of the things that are not critical to today and say we're going to accelerate this part of the Future Combat System, which might sort of be contradictory to the plan we had prior to 9-11 FCS development, Sessions said. But, he added, some of the other things may slip on the timetable.
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