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Army FCS Restructure Draws Mixed Reaction

The Army’s restructuring of the Future Combat Systems program received mixed reviews Thursday, with the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee raising concerns about the program’s new highly-compressed testing program and its cost.

"However, we are concerned that this new plan may not allow for adequate testing of the equipment due to its very tight schedule,” Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), chairman of the House Armed Services airland subcommittee said in a joint statement. “In addition, the overall FCS program remains far over budget, far behind schedule, and unaffordable in the long term given the many other pressing needs facing the United States Army. We look forward to seeing more changes to this program in the future."

That view stood in stark contrast to statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Skelton’s congressional colleague, Rep. John Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.

"I'm impressed with it... and I think FCS as they've restructured it, deserves support" Gates said at a Thursday press conference. Murtha, who met with Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Thursday morning, said he us “convinced that the Army is making changes that will ultimately make the FCS program more viable.” Still, Murtha made clear the subcommittee is watching the program closely, adding that it “will evaluate the details of these proposed changes” to make sure they fit in with the service’s larger objectives of rebuilding the force after seven years of global operations following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The Army decided to get several FCS technologies to infantry brigade combat teams more quickly than they otherwise would have, prodded by Congress and by commanders on the ground. The changes involved no new money, Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for programs, told me. He does need to reprogram $41 million in 2008 money, which shouldn’t be that hard.

An Army press release detailed the equipment that would move: Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors, the Non Line of Sight-Launch System and network kits for Humvees. Two unmanned vehicles were included in the list: the Class I Unmanned Air Vehicle and the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

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