Army pegs total transformation costs at $70 billion

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Army plans to spend a total of $70 billion during the next 14 years on its project to transform from a force built around heavy tanks and tracked personnel carriers to a lighter, highly mobile force similar to the U.S. Marines.

But Army Secretary Louis Caldera called the funding requirements a "challenge" to sell to Congress for an administration in its eighth and final year.

Caldera, speaking here at the Association of the United States Army's annual winter conference, said the Army believes it can fund roughly half the total transformation bill internally but will need strong congressional backing to obtain the other $35 billion to buy new, probably wheeled, battlefield vehicles to completely re-equip its troops.

The Army, Caldera, said, is willing to close some bases to help fund the transformation project, but he declined to specify which bases it would close. If Congress does not fully fund the new force, the Army still intends to proceed, but it "will do it at a slower pace," Caldera said.

Battlefield digitization systems, already being installed in "heavy" Army divisions, will be an important part of the new lightweight force, as the Army intends to leverage information technologies for its future battlefield forces, Caldera said. Echoing Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who spoke here earlier this week, Caldera said the Army intends to "embed" battlefield digitization systems into its new class of vehicles rather than bolting them on as it must do with its current fleet of tracked vehicles.

The Army plans to stand up two interim lightweight brigades this summer, built around wheeled vehicles it selects from a field of 35 tested at Fort Knox, Ky., last month. Later this year, the service plans to issue a request for proposals for the new class of vehicles.

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