The equipment for Son of FCS -- most of it recently canceled by the Army -- met the service's requirements but did not meet the much more demanding standard of actually improving how soldiers fought, according to the Pentagon's top operational tester.
This story appears to have much wider relevance than just the Army. Any service can draft what it thinks are sound requirements, but if they are not derived from and then embedded in how soldiers, sailors or airmen fight then the weapons which result can be irrelevant or much less useful than hoped. In these days of tightening budgets, few mistakes like that can be sustained.
"All of the E-IBCT system met or came close to meeting most of their documented requirements. The program office designed the E-ICBT systems to the specifications it was given and was largely successful in doing so," Michael Gilmore, director of Operational Test and Requirements testified before the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee yesterday. "Yet, in operational testing, these systems demonstrated little operational utility."
With all the criticism of the Army's development of requirements over the last decade, this might seem another classic example of what we might cattily call the Crusader syndrome. The Army develops a rock solid requirement for a weapon that it says it must have but can't really manage to develop or build. But this case seems a bit different. The Army's requirements could and were met. They just didn't add much value to what soldiers do, which is fight.
Some of the reasons for the service's failure, Gilmore said, is that, "the E-IBCT requirements document did not sufficiently link its largely technical specifications to desired operational outcomes. The requirements and specifications were necessary, but well short of sufficient, to assure military utility."
And Gilmore makes it clear this is not just an Army problem: "This situation is not unique to the E-ICBT program. Program requirements must be operational in nature and clearly linked to a useful and measurable operational capability. Contract specifications must be both necessary and sufficient to assure operational effectiveness in combat."
Gilmore gives the Army credit for trying to improve the systems after the Limited Utility Tests started in 2009. They led to "considerably improved reliability found in the operational test conducted in 2010." But improved results could not mask the fundamental problem that the systems just weren't worth deploying. If the Army had done "better developmental testing" before the 2009 LUT, Gilmore thinks the Army would have found out the limits of its systems sooner. And we could all have saved some money, time and institutional bandwidth.