Eight years ago the Army launched its most ambitious modernization program ever, the Future Combat Systems, a collection of 18 vehicles, aerial drones, robots, missiles and sensors all tied together by a robust communications network. The multi-billion dollar program was beset by shifting requirements, cost overruns, delays and what Army leaders now admit was a shining example of technological overreach.
Various restructurings over the years trimmed the bits of gear from the program, yet costs continued to climb; by 2010, the Army had spent nearly $23 billion on FCS. Last year, Defense Secretary Robert Gates finally stepped in and cancelled FCS, directing the Army to salvage what it could, at an affordable cost.
The Army changed the program’s name to Brigade Combat Team Modernization and sought to speed modest technological upgrades to troops in the field, including unattended munitions, the Non-Line-Of-Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS), sensors, a small hovering drone, a small robot, new radios and software.
Lawmakers expressed their continued displeasure with the program’s performance and moved to chop $891 million from the Army’s 2011 budget request for modernization. The Army had requested $1.6 billion for research and development and $682.7 million to buy two brigades sets of gear.
The House Armed Services Committee air and land forces subcommittee says it’s premature to start buying brigade sets of the new technologies when recent tests showed serious performance and reliability problems. The committee cuts all funding for the NLOS-LS, which the Army now says it wants to cancel, after spending $1 billion on the weapon.
The committee is also frustrated with the performance of the communications network and the new JTRS radios. Defense News' Kate Brannen wrote in her story breaking the news of HASC move:
“The committee also notes that even if the [Network Integration Kits] perform as planned, they may provide little additional capability to [early infantry brigade combat team] units and will likely be very expensive,” an excerpt from the committee’s mark up reads.Update: The HASC markup shifts NLOS-LS R&D funding to the Navy.