The Government Accountability Office wants the Pentagon to tighten its oversight of the Army’s high-tech network effort.
Developing and fielding an advanced tactical network designed to give soldiers and combat units a better understanding of the battlefield has become the service’s highest procurement priority.
Early versions of this situational-awareness technology have proven highly successful in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the GAO maintains that the complex, multi-phased effort could be in for a risky future. In a Jan. 10 report, GAO officials maintain that the Army plans to spend $60 billion on the network over the next two decades without sufficient data that the program will succeed.
“The Army's strategy addresses some aspects of cost, technology maturity, security, and readiness, but as implementation is still under way, data for assessing progress are not available at this time. … Given the magnitude and financial commitment envisioned, a consolidated reporting and budgeting framework could yield more consistency and clarity in the justifications for Army network initiatives and facilitate congressional oversight," the report states.The network effort grew out of the Army’s failed Future Combat Systems program – a transformational effort designed to create a lighter, more agile and capable force. FCS was a large and complex development effort to provide a networked family of weapons and other systems for the future force. The Pentagon killed the program’s fleet of 27-ton Manned Ground Vehicles, criticizing the design as ill-suited to survive current battlefield threats.
To help ensure a different fate for the network, the GAO recommends that “the Secretary of Defense should identify an oversight body to determine how capability set 13 -- as fielded in operational units -- has actually impacted overall network performance, capability gaps, and essential network capabilities and make recommendations for adjustments, as may be necessary," the report states.GAO also recommends that the Pentagon consolidate Army tactical network budget elements and justifications into a single area of the Army budget submittal.
The GAO also recommends that DoD “identify an oversight body to determine how well the Army is rapidly fielding mature and militarily useful network capabilities to its operating forces and maintaining robust industry participation in the process.”