Army issues FCS requirements

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With the recent release of the operational requirements document for the Future Combat System (FCS), the Army has taken its next step toward fielding the Objective Force by the end of the decade.

The Army's Training and Doctrine Command issued the FCS document Aug. 30, and it represents a fundamental shift of where the Army will focus — moving from conceptual development to materiel solutions — said Lt. Gen. John Riggs, director of the Objective Force Task Force, speaking Sept. 4 at an Association of the U.S. Army conference in Falls Church, Va.

The Objective Force will transform the Army's forces to make them better able to survive an all-out fight. The service's vision for FCS is to create an integrated information and communications battlespace in information technology-equipped vehicles that enable soldiers to conduct missions that include command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and indirect fire, and personnel transport.

"The conceptual foundation for FCS and the Objective Force has been established," Riggs said, adding that the operational requirements document should be viewed as a "baseline document."

Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, said now that the FCS requirements are in, it's time for the acquisition community and industry to take the lead and develop a system to meet those requirements. He added that the FCS advanced collaborative environment will bring users, in this case soldiers, to the front of the process and help to shape the product that the engineers develop from the start.

"The FCS advanced collaborative environment will change what me mean about shared concepts," Shinseki said. "It will break down walls. ur current processes are slow and cumbersome, and [this will be] more responsive for what we have to do."

Col. William Johnson, Objective Force project manager, said the document takes user requirements and states them in terms of threshold and objective capabilities.

"The threshold is the 2010 timeframe, and the objective is a point in the future when the technology and operational concepts mature to the point where we can add them," Johnson told Federal Computer Week. "We know the minimum and where we want to go, and we can develop architectures with growth in mind."

The FCS lead systems integrator team, Boeing Co.'s Space and Communications Group and Science Applications International Corp., was awarded a $154 million contract in March. In June, the team added eight more companies to the mix.

Jerry McElwee, vice president and program manager for FCS at Boeing, said the integrator team "is on schedule to meet the [Army's] milestone decision point this spring."

Johnson said that the integrator team represented a new way of partnering with industry for the Army and that the team played a part in developing the user requirements.

"Now we have an understanding of what the user expects, and we can go through and analyze the requirements and turn them into performance specifications for systems," Johnson said. That process will go on through December, and a systems integration request for proposals is due in January.

Following successful development of performance specifications, the next phase will be to build prototypes to use for testing, but that will require funding approval from the Defense Acquisition Board, Johnson said.

Brig. Gen. Donald Schenk, FCS program manager, will seek that funding approval in the third quarter of fiscal 2003. He said the timeline to have the first unit equipped and ready for operational tests by 2008, with initial operational capability in 2010, will require much testing and evaluation along the way because the Army still doesn't know what FCS will look like or what its requirements will be.


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