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Army Chief: Battlefield Network May Not Survive Combat

The Army's chief of staff told lawmakers Thursday he's not convinced the service's troubled Warfighter Information Network-Tactical will survive the rigors of combat.

WIN-T was part of the Army's Future Combat Systems effort in 2003. After FCS was canceled in 2009, the service tried to salvage the program as part of an effort to create secure battlefield communications for mounted forces on the move -- an effort led by General Dynamics Corp. and that has cost about $6 billion.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, voiced his concerns about WIN-T to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley at a May 25 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

"I have seen credible reports that WIN-T has ineffective line-of-sight communications," Cotton said. "It is too fragile to survive in a contested environment and has an electromagnetic signature so loud that it practically would call for enemy artillery on the top of its user's heads.

"Have you seen similar reports?" Cotton asked the general.

Milley told Cotton that "we share the same concerns" and that he is leading "a rigorous, thorough and painful review of the entire communications, electromagnetic capability of the U.S. Army," including WIN-T.

"Frankly, my concern is these systems may or may not work in the conditions of combat that I envision in the future," he said, citing concerns that WIN-T is unable to operate on the move or in large, complex urban areas.

"And there is a whole series of other things, and it is fragile and it is vulnerable, so we are taking a very, very deep, hard, wide look."

The review will likely take another four to six weeks to complete, Milley said.

Milley said he recently received a letter from the "House with 176 signatures on it and a letter from the Senate with several signatures on it asking me to accelerate that program."

"I am not going to accelerate it until I am convinced it will work in combat against the enemies of our country that may be coming in the future," he said.

Cotton, along with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, pointed to WIN-T's $6 billion price tag over the past decade and said it's time for the Army to make a final decision on the system's future.

"If the program is not working, it doesn't seem that we should be accelerating more money into it until we can get it to work or find a replacement," Cotton said.

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