Should FCS Sink ...

The latest Congressional Budget Office report (PDF!) on the Army's $250-billion Future Combat Systems family of vehicles paints a pretty bleak picture:

In 2011, planned FCS costs would account for about 6 percent of the Army's $21 billion procurement budget, CBO estimates; by 2015, that share could rise to almost half and remain at or above 40 percent through 2025. (For purposes of comparison, in the mid-1980s, at the height of the Reagan defense buildup, the Army dedicated at most 20 percent of its procurement funds to buy combat vehicles.
So CBO has come up with alternatives, as described by Defense News:m1.jpg
CBOs first alternative, focused on the Armys ability to collect and disseminate information, includes the purchase of unattended ground sensors, all four proposed classes of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and a computer network to link them all together ...A second alternative, with an emphasis on long-range strikes, calls for the procurement of the network and ground sensors, but only the longer-range UAVs (Classes III and IV) to detect targets and an FCS vehicle-based mortar system to attack them ...Under a third alternative, the Army would focus on maneuver warfare by developing several of the proposed FCS vehicles, particularly those that would replace aged M113 armored personnel carriers and M109 self-propelled howitzers. The FCS computer network would be retained ...Under the fourth and least expensive alternative CBO proposed, the Army would develop only the computer network and forgo acquisition of any other FCS components. The service would maintain the same fleet of armored vehicles that it has had for more than 20 years ...One aspect common to all four proposals is the elimination of the unmanned ground vehicles and intelligent munitions system now part of the FCS plan. All four alternatives would, however, see the Army upgrading its armored vehicles to the most recent standard, while incorporating various FCS attributes as they are developed.
The Army has already moved forward on such upgrades, as the CBO explains:
The more than 2,500 upgrades that the Army plans to procure from 2007 through 2016 would improve the capabilities of its tanks, fighting vehicles and personnel carriers and slightly lessen the increase in the average age of the armored vehicle fleet ... When combined with the additional upgrades funded in the supplemental appropriations enacted this past June, the planned upgrades would further the Army's efforts toward meeting its goal of having enough of the latest models of its Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles to equip all of its heavy brigades and prepositioned stocks.
But the Army says that upgraded legacy vehicles, while capable, would mean heavier brigades that are 25 percent slower to deploy using existing sealift and airlift assets.Here's a thought: stick to proven, affordable armored vehicles that work (and might even be better suited to future fights than FCS) while investing some of the savings in more ships and C-17s, speeding up deployments at a fraction of the cost.--David Axe
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