More oversight on combat systems spending

Congress tightened its oversight of the Army's $14 billion Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, DOD business systems and a project to move all DOD networks to a new Internet standard. Warnings of the increased oversight appear in the final version of the 2005 Defense Authorization bill approved by a House and Senate conference committee.

Although it promises more regulation, the bill provides rapid acquisition authority for combat commanders and increases the duration of multiyear task-and-delivery order contracts from five years to 10 years.

Andrea White, director of contracts at Robbins-Gioia LLC in Alexandria, Va., said adding an extra five years to multiyear task-order contracts will reduce administrative overhead for DOD officials and their contractors.

Elsewhere in the bill, legislators approved $2.9 billion for the Army FCS project in 2005, which is $272 million less than the Bush administration's request, and imposed strict program strategy requirements.

Under development by Boeing Co., FCS will help equip the Army during the next decade with 18 mobile manned and robotic air and ground systems connected via a fast, secure communications network.

Before Army officials procure any of these systems, lawmakers will require them to demonstrate the secure network's performance, including the performance of a behind-schedule Joint Tactical Radio System and the Army's next-generation battlefield backbone network, the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical.

DOD officials also must provide congressional leaders with an independent cost estimate of FCS and a report on the maturity of the technologies they plan to use for the program.

Although DOD officials plan to transition their new networks to IP Version 6, lawmakers want proof that IPv6 can support multiple applications and work well via bandwidth-constrained tactical networks. A report to Congress on an ongoing IPv6 test program is due in September 2005.

The Defense Authorization bill limited spending on modernizing any DOD business system to $1 million, unless the system is deemed to be critical to national security. And the bill requires DOD officials to develop an enterprise architecture for their business systems by next September.

New rapid acquisition authority will allow combat commanders to procure equipment or systems within 15 days. Lawmakers said they believe the process will ensure that urgently needed equipment arrives quickly to troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In cases in which finding or developing equipment would take a significant amount of time, the bill allows military officials to field an interim solution that minimizes combat casualties and allows time to develop a better solution.

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