GAO at odds on program timeline

GAO report

The Army is disputing a General Accounting Office report released last week that recommends extending the timeline for the service's multibillion-dollar effort to bring technology to the battlefield.

GAO recommends extending the time allotted for developing and demonstrating the Future Combat Systems (FCS) from three years to five, forcing the Army to abandon its goal of having the basic technology in place and working by 2010. The report said GAO had briefed representatives of the Army, the Pentagon and Congress, and that no one raised any objections.

But Army officials say now they do object.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Rudy Burwell said the service disagrees with the GAO report. "There have been no changes to previous Army releases [regarding] the timeline" about these milestones, Burwell wrote in an Aug. 14 e-mail. He added that the service remains committed to having initial FCS operations working in 2010 and having it fully operational by 2012.

FCS seeks to link 19 systems that use advanced communications and technologies to connect soldiers with air and ground platforms and sensors. The Army plans to spend about $22 billion for the program in fiscal 2004 through fiscal 2009, and several billion more for non-FCS programs required to create the "system of system," according to the report.

Paul Francis, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management, in an Aug. 13 letter to lawmakers said FCS officials have decided to do the following:

* Add about two years between milestones.

* Push back the target date for equipping the first unit with FCS to 2011, rather than the current date of 2008.

* Delay the deadline for FCS to be fully operational to fiscal 2013.

Francis said the Army initially had slated a three-year development phase for FCS, which is "unheard of." In early April, Army officials informed GAO that FCS' development had been extended by about two years. "The Army needed more time to reduce risk. This is entirely appropriate," Francis told Federal Computer Week in an interview Aug. 15.

The Army received approval May 18 to move FCS into the nearly $15 billion system development and demonstration phase. Edward "Pete" Aldridge Jr., then undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, signed the milestone B decision after a meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board.

GAO officials have suggested three options, including further developing individual technologies before pushing the entire FCS into the demonstration phase, use of advanced technology demonstrations to mature key technologies and use of a knowledge-based approach for incorporating individual systems into the overall network.

"It was just a matter of time before reality caught up with them," said John Pike, director of, which monitors space and military programs. "I think they are just being more realistic, but there are still some major issues that are unresolved that can cause some major problems."

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group