The new chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee launched his first Army modernization hearing asking why the service didn’t build upgrades of its existing equipment instead of buying the new Ground Combat Vehicle.
It was clearly not the reception the senior Army leadership hoped for in their first hearing with Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, subcommittee chairman.
Bartlett spent most of his opening statement asking, in one form or another, this question: why should the Army buy the GCV.
“Why did the Army not complete an analysis of alternatives before it issued the original requests for proposals as this committee had encouraged? Can the Army afford to launch another program that could cost up to $30 billion to procure a vehicle that carries a squad of nine instead of the current six? Why not consider as an alternative option continuing to upgrade Abrams, Bradleys and Strykers, focus on the network and take part of the funds and apply it to lightening the load of the soldier?” Bartlett asked.
Bartlett did say "the committee has and continues to support the Army’s goal of pursuing a modernized combat vehicle. However, the committee needs to understand the rationale as to why the Ground Combat Vehicle should proceed as scheduled or if it should move to the right, in time?" Not exactly a resounding note of support for GCV.
Then Bartlett was followed by Rep. Silvestre Reyes, his ranking member, asking Vice Chief of the Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli whether an upgraded Bradley Fighting Vehicle might be “adequate” to meet the Army’s needs.
Chiarelli offered the story of the Abrams tank, which he said had been so well designed and robust that it could support an improved and larger gun, improved targeting systems and other improvements over time.
The Abrams “was built with size and weight and power that enabled it to upgrade. That’s what we want with GCV,” he said.
But Michael Sullivan, the top acquisition expert at the Government Accountability Office, told the subcommittee that “questions remain about the urgency of the need for the GCV.” He pointed to work by the Army’s own Red Team, which concluded that the Army wanted to build GCV to protect the monies set aside for the defunct Future Combat System. On top of that, the Red Team found that “the Army had not provided the analysis supporting the need to rapidly replace the Bradley vehicle.” The Army is completing one of its portfolio reviews to answer many of these questions but it is not yet decided.
Add to the questions about whether the GCV is needed, Sullivan’s conclusions that the GCV plan of designed and building a vehicle within seven years “is still very ambitious.”