The Army on Thursday awarded contracts worth almost $900 million to pursue two candidates' designs for its new Ground Combat Vehicle; it also eliminated a third competitor from the race. BAE Land Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems will go forward with "technology development," but a team including SAIC and Boeing did not make the cut. Does this put the service on a smooth glide slope toward its prized new infantry fighting vehicle? Oh no.
As Defense News' incomparable Kate Brannen reported this week, internal DoD documents show the projected cost per vehicle has risen from around $10 million to $13 million -- and that's before a single one has rolled out of the factory. In the same document, DoD's top weapons-buyer and soon-to-be deputy defense secretary, Ashton Carter, also ordered a simultaneous analysis of alternatives for the GCV. This requires "the Army to conduct two reviews to see if there is anything else out there that could fill the Army's need for a new infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) without a brand-new development effort," Brannen wrote.
So in the same breath, Carter authorized the Army to go forward with a major new program and also urged it not to. Now, what are the odds Big Army is going to come back after this AoA and say, "well gawrsh, actually, turns out we don't need a CGV after all -- we'll just give all our Bradleys an oil change!" Not good. We've seen this movie before, but nobody in the Building seems to be able to step in and stop it.
The Army, for its part, says it gets it: Its top brass really believes it can build a major new infantry vehicle in about seven years and stay on budget. "Given the economic environment the nation currently faces, the Army recognizes that it is imperative to continually address requirements as we build a versatile, yet affordable, next-generation infantry fighting vehicle," said Army Secretary John McHugh.
And yet this is the same service that asked a panel to take an honest look at its acquisition process, got back a scathing report, and then decided to ask another panel to take a look at what the first panel concluded. The same service, in fact, that McHugh himself just said needs major reform in the "generating force" that will be responsible for executing this project. His emphasis on requirements control for GCV is an acknowledgement the Army still hasn't internalized the lessons it needs to make a program perform well.
But -- in this pre-apocalyptic era before the real, serious austerity measures have sunk in, the Army wants to start and advance this program as much as possible so it'll be that much more difficult to kill.