GAO: Plans out of step for digitized corps

The Army needs to update its fielding plan for the first digitized corps

because many of the systems, worth billions of dollars, will not be ready

by the 2004 deadline, according to a General Accounting Office report released

Tuesday.

The Army's first digitized corps, III Corps, is being armed with dozens

of new and improved information systems between now and 2004. The service

is starting with the first digitized division — the 4th Infantry Division — and by 2015, the Army intends to digitize the rest of its forces. Between

2001 and 2005, the service will invest about $17.5 billion on the systems.

However, 26 of those systems might not be ready for fielding by 2004,

and 12 will definitely not be ready, according to the GAO, the investigative

arm of Congress.

The Army divides the dozens of systems into two categories based on

fielding priority: Category 1 systems are high-priority and are being fielded

first, and Category 2 systems will be fielded later. The Category 2 systems

are the ones creating concern, GAO says.

"Because of the uncertain availability of most of the 56 Category 2

systems by 2004, we are concerned that organizational decisions are being

made on the assumption that these systems will be ready by 2004," the GAO

report states. "For example, we observed that the Army has already made

decisions to reduce the number of soldiers needed to fulfill missions based

on the expected benefits of some of the 56 Category 2 systems, even though

these systems are still being developed or tested."

The list of systems that might not be fielded in 2004 includes Land

Warrior, the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Battlefield Combat Identification

System.

Those that definitely will not make the deadline include the RAH-66

Comanche, which is described as the quarterback of the digitized battlefield.

The list also includes three terminated programs: the Command and Control

Vehicle, the Grizzly Engineering Vehicle and the Wolverine Heavy Assault

Bridge.

GAO explained that systems might not be ready for several reasons: Development

schedules are not consistent with the 2004 milestone, operational testing

has not yet been done, funds have been shifted or interoperability demonstrations

have not been performed.

The Army and Pentagon agreed with the GAO recommendation that the service

prepare an annual report that identifies when each Category 2 system is

expected to be fielded and provide alternative fielding strategies focused

on what is needed to establish the first digitized corps by 2004. The service

has agreed to implement the recommendation as part of an existing reporting

system.

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