"I expect to be underwhelmed." That is the response one Capitol Hill aide who follows Son of FCS expects to have when the Army unveils its plans for combat vehicle modernization in the next week or so.
Although the Army may have crafted a brilliant and innovative approach to filling its modernization stocking with new vehicles and technologies, this aide and others watching the Manned Ground Vehicle effort see little sign of it.
Instead, it looks as if the Army may well end up doing an upgrade to the magnificent beast known as the Abrams tank. The new name floating around is the M1E1, which certainly sounds much more sonorous than the M1A2 SEP or similar.
The Bradley and M113 seem unlikely candidates for any upgrades, this congressional aide said. But Strykers certainly make sense as the service's most modern combat vehicle and the only one that boasts anything like an effective and integrated network capability, the aide said. And an Army source says the service hopes to build an additional three to five Stryker brigades -- about $2 billion each -- over the next five to seven years as a bridge between the current force and one equipped with the early Manned Ground Vehicle units.
Should the Army congressional liaison office need any more hints to pass to the TRADOC team and senior Army leaders working on the new Army modernization requirements, they might note that this aide was unimpressed when briefed on the Army's efforts. In particular, the idea of rolling technology out in two-year increments, and including costs for training and forces as part of that effort, drew a congressional retort along the lines of, "I told them we don't fund things that way. You have to fund a program and we do it year by year." Also, the aide hopes "they chuck the five to seven year timeline" for fielding a son of FCS.
That timeline just isn't supportable. The defense authorizers and appropriators are likely to give the Army only $50 million for 2010 for son of FCS. "I can't imagine they are going to go in there, and say, it's $50 million for 2010 and then next year it's going to be a billion. I just cant see them winning that argument," this aide said, noting that the Army can pretty much only develop requirements and do some concept of operations studies with $50 million. And it would almost be impossible for the Army to come up with substantially more money in the next year as the likely operational and force structure bills from Afghanistan and Iraq come due. Army modernization efforts often get eaten by force structure or operational bills, the aide noted.