FCS fineprint

The Army's announcement last month that it will speed up development of some Future Combat Systems (FCS) technologies made a defense analyst wonder if service officials have changed the focus of their next-generation, multibillion-dollar warfighting program.

"The introduction of four spirals makes me think the Army may be stepping away from FCS as revolutionary to evolutionary," said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va.

Army officials will deploy three of the 18 FCS systems in 2008, another one by 2010, three more in 2012 and all 18 systems and the computer network that ties them together by 2014, said Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, July 21 during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

Schoomaker said service officials calculated a 28 percent chance of successfully deploying the first FCS unit based on the original schedule. With the new schedule, Army officials predict a 70 percent probability of successfully deploying the first fully equipped unit by 2014.

Thompson said he did not find comfort in Schoomaker's comment. He said the prediction also means that there is almost a one-in-three chance that Army officials will not field the first FCS unit by then.

Eric Shinseki, who retired as Army chief of staff last summer, wanted the first FCS unit fully equipped by 2008. The unit would train with the new equipmentfor two years and be cleared for combat in 2010.

But Congress decreased the FCS budget for fiscal 2005 by almost $300 million. Thompson explained the budget cut, saying that "the Army must find a simpler way of describing this program if it wants to succeed on Capitol Hill."

Grand Challenge rules

Earlier this month, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency officials released the schedule and rules for the next robotic ground vehicle race.

DARPA officials will hold the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge Event Oct. 8, 2005, in the California desert. The manufacturer of the robotic champion will win $2 million.

Industry officials said the rules, released more than a year ahead of time, include several changes. DARPA officials shortened next year's race from 300 miles to 175 miles. To see the rules, go to


Al Qaeda and IT

Al Qaeda uses Web sites and e-mail addresses in Turkey, Nigeria and the tribal areas of Pakistan and couriers transporting computer disks to pass messages.

Members of the terrorist group briefly post messages on Web sites and use e-mail addresses only two or three times. They also read the messages on the disks, then delete them, according to a CNN report.

Vendor for Inscom

Army officials awarded a three-year

$89 million contract last week to an industry team led by Object Sciences Corp. to help operate and provide technologies for the service's Information and Security Command (Inscom) and Information Dominance Center.

Object Sciences will work with 14 firms to support Inscom, the command that helps protect Army networks. The industry team will provide computer services including architecture development, collaboration and engineering.

In addition to helping protect networks, Inscom officials investigate the hacking of Army systems using counterterrorism, counterintelligence and information operations. The contract award follows comments from service and industry officials in recent months that Army systems experience daily cyberattacks

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