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Budget blunder: GCV delayed 1 year, not 18 months

Army budget officials were wrong Wednesday when they announced an 18-month delay to the service’s Ground Combat Vehicle program at the service's budget brief in the Pentagon. The high-priority effort to replace the Bradley fighting vehicle is now scheduled to be delayed by 12 months, Army officials said Friday.

The mistake puzzled officials at General Dynamics Corp. and BAE Systems, who until Friday had only heard about a six-month delay to the technology development phase of the program Army officials had announced in January.

Army officials said the incorrect announcement was an “analyst error,” according to Army spokesman Matthew Bourke.

The new delay -- which is part of the Army’s proposed fiscal 2014 defense spending plan -- adds another six-month delay to the GCV program’s engineering, manufacturing and development phase -- making the new delay “a total of 12 months,” Bourke said.

“An extension in the TD Phase provides necessary time to fully update the GCV's analysis of alternatives, ensuring the Army is properly positioned to reach an informed, validated and fixed requirements set prior to Milestone B. Six months was added to the EMD phase to address fiscal constraints in the out years and provide more time to leverage maturing technologies,” Bourke wrote in the clarification.

General Dynamics Corp., based in Falls Church, Virginia, and the U.S. subsidiary of London-based BAE Systems PLC have received contracts valued at about $450 million apiece to develop the GCV systems.

Officials from both firms were caught off guard by the budget decision and said Thursday they hadn’t heard anything about it.

“We don't have any information on the EMD extension,” GD spokesman Karl Oskoian said Thursday. On Friday, the two companies had been informed about the new 12-month delay.

Army officials maintain that the new delay will only help the program.

“This acquisition strategy adjustment not only illustrates sound financial judgment, it also illustrates the Army's initiative to modernizing current platforms in a carefully considered and measured approach,” Bourke wrote.

BAE Systems issued a statement Friday supporting the delay.

"We believe this is a reasonable approach to the program and that it reduces risk to the program overall," read the statement issued by Shannon Booker, a BAE Systems spokeswoman.

The Army’s base budget, which excludes funding for the war in Afghanistan, would total $130 billion. The service is requesting $1.7 billion less to buy and develop weapons than it did last year.

The service plans to keep funding improvements to its battlefield network, which it now describes as its “foremost investment priority.” The Army plans to spend $4.3 billion next year procuring electronics and communications equipment, almost half of which is slated for network-related programs.

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