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A Big Pot of Money for Next-Gen Jeep

Imagine a bounty of nearly $100 billion. That's right, $100 billion.

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Program is likely to be worth somewhere between $50 billion and that magical $100 billion figure, according to industry insiders. The past month has seen the rollout of several JLTV pitches, including those by Northrop-Grumman and Oshkosh (that's the truck company, not the cute overall folks) and one from a conglomerate of Textron Systems, Boeing and SAIC.

But the biggest problem with this competition is that it has competition. There are MRAPs and Humvees and Abrams tanks and M113s all competing for ground vehicle money. The House Armed Services Committee is worried about all this. In the report accompanying its version of the 2009 defense authorization bill, the committee mentions JLTV twice in separate sections.

In the first one, the committee says said it is "concerned that the Army's current plan to field, maintain, and continuously modernize three separate fleets of ground combat vehicles, in addition to replacing much of its wheeled vehicle fleet, is unaffordable in the near- and mid-term and could greatly increase operational support costs in the long-term."

Right now, the service has the heavy mechanized force of M1 tanks, M2 Bradley fighting vehicles, and M113 support vehicles and the Stryker family of vehicles. On top of that the Army is beginning to spend large amounts of money building the Future Combat Systems.

The cost of modernizing the three fleets "at the same time could require funding far in excess of likely Army procurement funding in the fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2020 period." Add the JLTV to the mix and the Army won't have much money for anything else, the committee report notes.

But the committee doesn't get down and whack any of the existing programs much. Instead, it "urges" the Army "to reexamine the proper mix of brigade combat teams and ground combat vehicles" in its next budget and during the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review so the service can modernize and support its vehicle mix "under realistic future budget assumptions."

Not exactly what the JLTV folks might want to hear right now, with all the talk of revolutionary capabilities from their offerings, but remember that the committee did not cut much from FCS or the other programs in the House bill.

It did say that "some current vehicles, such as the M113 family of vehicles, have requirements significantly less demanding than the M1 Abrams, M2 Bradley, and M109A6 Paladin in terms of combat capability." Given that, the committee said it "could support replacement of the M113 family with FCS or Stryker vehicles."

In another section of the report, the committee makes clear its worries about the competition for resources between MRAPS, up-armored Humvees and JLTV.

"In addition to the thousands of light, medium, and heavy trucks and hundreds of armored security vehicles, the committee is aware the Army would purchase over 12,000 mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles by the end of fiscal year 2008 and almost 2,000 additional Stryker vehicles through fiscal year 2013," the report notes.

"Concurrently, the Army and the Marine Corps continue to develop the joint light tactical vehicle (JLTV), which would perform many of the same missions that current up-armored high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV) and MRAP vehicles now perform."

The lawmakers say they are "concerned over whether there could be a potential to prematurely accelerate 'point solutions' for the JLTV program." So it calls on the Army to work with the Marines to come up with a long-term strategy and to "consider cost reduction strategies, reliability, and maintainability improvement initiatives."

We're not quite sure where that leaves JLTV. The JLTV business development types we spoke with said they know they have their work cut out for them.

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