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GAO CBO Warn About Future Combat System

FCS is a family of 18 ground and air vehicles and sensors, manned and unmanned, many with common parts, linked by a sophisticated network, and ultimately meant to replace its tanks, scout and fighting vehicles and surveillance.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Apr 07, 2006
Two government agencies are cautioning the Pentagon on risks in the Army's $161 billion Future Combat System. The Congressional Budget Office warned this week that by 2015 the Army will have to spend $10 billion a year -- a third of its entire procurement budget -- buying the system.

The Government Accountability Office wants the Army and Pentagon to consider canceling the program when it comes up for a formal review in 2008 if key problems are not solved by then.

The problems are many, and the cost implications high. The estimate to develop and buy the Future Combat System has nearly doubled. The original projected cost was $91.4 billion. By January, the estimate had reached $160.7 billion, a 76 percent increase.

But the Army is adamant FCS is a necessary revolutionary upgrade to its aging groun! d fleet that will enable it to quickly deploy anywhere in the world and defeat enemy forces with fewer men.

CBO questions the deployment speed rationale for FCS, however. In a new report, CBO says a heavy Army brigade equipped with the current vehicles would take 23 days to deploy by ship to East Africa. An FCS brigade would also take 23 days. At a division level, FCS would save just four days in sealift time.

FCS is a family of 18 ground and air vehicles and sensors, manned and unmanned, many with common parts, linked by a sophisticated network, and ultimately meant to replace its tanks, scout and fighting vehicles and surveillance. It is supposed to reach full operational capability in 2017, with the procurement of equipment for 15 brigade combat teams completed by 2025.

The program was approved to enter systems development in 2003 but did not have in place firm requirements for what each piece of equipment would do,! nor mature technologies to be integrated into the system, GAO stated Tuesday in a new report. There are nearly 11,500 separate systems to be developed, built and integrated into FCS.

"While the preliminary design review normally occurs at or near the start of product development, the Army has scheduled it in fiscal year 2008," GAO reported.

By that time, $19 billion will already be sunk into FCS.

A critical design review is scheduled for 2010, just two years before the system will go into low-rate production, leaving little time to correct flaws in the design before it rolls off the production line.

Paul Francis, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management, told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces he has recommended the Pentagon consider the 2008 critical design review a "go/no-go" decision.

The Pentagon and the Army have rejected that ! suggestion.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for acquisition Claude Bolton told the committee he disagrees with the GAO's findings.

"FCS is a model program," he said. "FCS is watched probably closer than a newborn baby ... the risks are manageable and progress is steady."

"I worry the burden of intervention will fall to Congress," Francis said Tuesday.

With an eye on the increasingly squeezed defense budget -- a situation subcommittee chairman Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Penn.) likened to a "massive train wreck" -- the Congressional Budget Office has crafted four options that would bring down the annual cost of FCS to the Army. But they would also significantly reduce the scope and capability of the problem.

The $10 billion annual cost of FCS could climb to $16 billion if the program experiences the kind of cost growth common in major weapons systems, according to CBO. Moreover, said CBO as! sistant director for national security Michael Gilmore, the Army will likely require an additional $2 billion a year from 2010 through 2016 for spare parts and maintenance on the family of vehicles.

The first option for cutting FCS costs would be for the Army to develop and purchase the full suite of planned sensors and a version of the computer network that ties them all together. The estimate cost of this option would be $99 billion.

The second option would have the Army develop and buy a scaled-down version of the FCS network. It would also have the Army buy those FCS systems designed to attack targets at ranges greater than 20 kilometers. The cost of this option would be $106 billion.

The third option would have the Army focus on development several of FCS' manned ground vehicles -- particularly those designed to replace the M113 tracked vehicles and the M109 howitzer now in the fleet. It would also develop a modif! ied version of the network to tie the equipment together. The cost would be $103 billion.

Option four would essentially cancel the FCS program, but would develop a scaled-down network, for a cost of $69 billion.

None of the options would procure unmanned ground vehicles or improved munitions systems, and all would upgrade existing armored vehicles to convert them to the latest model.

Source: United Press International

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