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Hill React to FCS OK; Rumors on OSD Review

FCS, the Army's prime modernization effort, appears set for a major restructure if rumors emanating from the Pentagon and Hill are correct.

Half of the eight FCS vehicles would apparently be axed or moved way to the right. While the lineup appears fluid, this is what I'm hearing now. It looks as if the NLOS-C, C2V, MCS Reconnaissance and Surveillance Vehicle and the Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV) would survive, along with the UAVs and SUG-V and the network.

A congressional aide told me this would mark a major improvement in the program and would answer many of the Hill's concerns about the program. This aide pointed out that $18 billion will have been spent on the program through 2009 without a whole of hardware having made it to the troops. Especially in the current budget situation, that sort of burn rate is just not sustainable, this aide said.

As to the question of just what the Army's approval of the PDR for the eight vehicles means, this aide said it may not mean very much in the long run: "There are really parallel tracks going. The acquisition system is just chugging along like nothing is going to happen." The aide said that Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey is trying hard to "sell his FCS plan to Gates and the Obama folks." But Casey's efforts may be in vain. I'm sure Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will have something to say about all this. We'll see how well Casey and Inhofe do.

BTW, below is a Jan. 17 comment we received in reaction to a much earlier Buzz story on FCS. It came from an Army officer. I've floated it by several experts familiar with FCS who do not have a dog in the fight and they say it is highly accurate. FCS is the principal Army modernization program designed to conduct full-spectrum operations enabling the Army to conduct traditional warfare, complex, and irregular warfare. FCS will allow the Army to function and conduct complex warfare in urban and mixed terrain environments. FCS will provide the Army and joint forces unprecedented capability to see and engage the enemy on the battlefield. Based upon F100: Managing Army Change Student Advance Book readings contained in F104 I argue that the Army should continue incremental development of the FCS program. Based upon Government Accounting Office (GAO) and other United States Government (USG) agencies studies begun in May 2003 I recommend development of the FCS program in two incremental (near term and long-term) development phases due to cost, timeline to implement systems, and dependence on advance technologies not yet developed. Near-term development allows for fielding of some FCS program systems within five years. Let us look at the cost, timeline for implementation and dependence on advance technologies.

I define near term as all systems that can be developed based upon the acquisition approach of single step development, defined, as capabilities required are known and the technology is available to fulfill development. The cost of the Future Combat System has doubled over the past three years to about $300 billion based upon Department of Defense (DoD) estimates. Challenges with developing the evolutionary technology required to build the platform for the FCS program is estimated to cost over $100 billion dollars. Long-term developmental cost would skyrocket due to the use of spiral development of the technology that does not currently exist.

“The CAIG report breaks down the estimates by account: $118 billion for procurement, $87.9 billion for operation and maintenance, $56.3 billion for personnel and $300 million for construction. RDT&E could cost between $31.8 billion and $44 billion, the report states.”1 The projected cost is just that, additional projected costs could be in the billions once committed to the development. It is estimated that the actually cost could cost 30% or more than projected cost due to technology development and testing.

Near-term development time line for implementation allows us to develop, test, and field component systems of the FCS program rapidly to the troops in the field that have a need for the systems now. Focusing on developing systems based upon advance current technology enables us to field the systems quickly and incorporate into future technologically advanced systems developed. The long-term reality of the FCS network centric based program is that it will take decades to develop, test, implement, and field throughout the Army. Currently there are no operational network capabilities available to support the network, frequency driven program. The budgetary and fielding milestones established for the FCS program does not accurately reflect the budgetary and technology requirement and challenges the system faces. The near term and long-term development are viable and acceptable milestones that lends itself to development of the FCS program. Near term development are systems that could be developed over a five-year period. Long-term development would be all systems that require spiral advance technology development that takes longer than ten-years to test and produce a prototype.

The long-term systems of the FCS program is dependent upon advance technology that has not been developed–the logical approach is to develop those systems over long-term. The projected dependence on advance technologies for the FCS program implies an extended duration of development of a “Network-centric Operations” (NCO) platform. We will need to develop this new technology and secure it from our enemies. With China and other hostile nations continually probing and testing our networks (unclassified, classified, and secret) the new FCS network centric platform will need new technology developed in secret. The network centric FCS program technology will need to operate on a platform or system with multiple network security redundancies and firewalls. We will need to be able to ensure that FCS could not be neutralized or co-opted and used against our forces.

In conclusion, the bottom line here is that we are looking at technologies that will take decades to develop and cost the American taxpayers billions of dollars over the years. The technology being developed may become obsolete for the battlefield of the 21st century. Based upon the projected cost associated with the development of non-existing technologies, timeline to implement near-term systems compared to long-term systems I recommend development of the FCS program in the two incremental development phases discussed. The short term development of systems within the FCS program will be able to address the near-term needs of current operations. Long-term FCS program systems could be developed based upon existing and projected military technology requirements and needs.

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