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JLTV competitors confident despite delay potential

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The defense companies in competition to build the military’s Humvee replacement did not seem worried about a potential delay in the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program brought on by the massive budget cuts facing the Pentagon.

Army officials said a delay in the JLTV competition is a possibility should Congress and the White House fail to come to an agreement and avoid the sequestration budget cuts set to hit the government March 1 that would cost the Pentagon $500 billion in planned defense spending over the next ten years.

The Army has already delayed the Ground Combat Vehicle program by six months while also subtracting two of the three contracts they planned to issue in the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program because of budget cuts.

A similar fate could meet the JLTV program although the Army has already issued the three contracts for the EMD phase to AM General, Oshkosh and Lockheed Martin. All three defense companies attended the Association of the U.S. Army’s Winter Symposium here and officials from all three didn’t seem too worried about a delay.

Each company said they are progressing well in the production of the JLTV prototypes that the Army will test. The Army has asked for those 22 prototypes to be delivered in August ahead of their rigorous testing regimen.

“I don’t think a delay in the [in the overall program] would affect our ability” to continue the progress we’ve seen in the EMD phase, said Chris Vanslager, the vice president of program management and business development for AM General.

Lockheed Martin remains optimistic, although any potential delay really depends on the length of the delay and the timing of it, said Rick Vallario, director of business development for Lockheed Martin’s Tactical Missiles/Combat Maneuver Systems branch.

Executives for the three companies said they will continue to march on in the program until the Army tells them otherwise. Until then, the companies have no control over the decisions made to the Army’s budget.

“We are on schedule with our requirements and we’ll keep our nose to the grindstone,” said Mike Ivy, vice president and general manager for Oshkosh Defense.

Because Army issued the JLTV EMD contracts to the companies before sequestration hit, the funding is currently protected. Future investment, however, could obviously take a hit and change expectations for how much the Army and Marine Corps can spend on it should those budget cuts come to pass.

The JLTV program was nearly canceled when per vehicle costs reached $500,000. It was saved when the defense industry and Army leaders got together, eliminated unnecessary requirements, and dropped the per vehicle cost to $250,000.

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