Army transformation faces uphill battle

"Military Transformation: Army Has a Comprehensive Plan for Managing Its Transformation But Faces Major Challenges"

The Army's goal of transforming every aspect of the way it operates during the next 30 years will be difficult to attain because of technological, financial and personnel uncertainties, according to a report from the General Accounting Office.

"The Army's plans are highly dependent on near-term technological advances that are uncertain and long-term funding commitments," according to a Nov. 16 letter sent to the Armed Services Committee in both houses of Congress from Carol Schuster, director of defense capabilities and management at GAO.

Schuster's letter summarized the report findings, which identified the Army's key challenge areas: technology, staying on schedule, acquisitions, operations, human capital and funding.

On the technological front, the report said the Army is "counting on advances in digital communications and computer information systems technology to achieve situational awareness on the battlefield" and that those advanced capabilities are critical to "quickly moving supplies and parts to the battlefield rather than taking them along."

The GAO report found that the two- to three- year timeframe for the science and technology advances is uncertain, as are the cost, affordability and capabilities associated with the Future Combat Systems program, an effort to equip future soldiers with vehicles loaded with surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting systems.

The report also said the goal of achieving "initial operational capability" of Future Combat Systems by 2010 "may not be sufficient" because the service won't know until 2003 whether the key technologies necessary to make it work will be mature enough to enter systems development by 2006.

Technological advances also will require more military personnel to maintain, support and operate the future systems, according to the report. "Military personnel will need to periodically repeat training on digitized systems to retain proficiency while being trained at the same time to develop a wider range of new skills."

The Defense Department was given a draft copy of the GAO report, "Military Transformation: Army Has a Comprehensive Plan for Managing Its Transformation But Faces Major Challenges," Sept. 24. Officials "generally agreed" with its findings, according to a Nov. 1 letter from George Schneiter, director of strategic and tactical systems in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

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