Army details goals of Future Combat System

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The Army, in the midst of a sweeping initiative to transform how it conducts war, released a document late last month defining its overarching operational requirements for the Future Combat System (FCS).

The document, issued by the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, represents a fundamental shift of focus 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. FCS, a key component of the initiative, will equip Army vehicles with information and communications systems to enable soldiers to conduct missions, including 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 set, it's time for the acquisition community and industry to develop a system to meet those requirements. FCS' advanced collaborative environment will take soldiers' input into account, which will shape the product that the engineers develop from the start, he added.

"The FCS advanced collaborative environment will change what we mean about shared concepts," Shinseki said. "It will break down walls. Our 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 FCS user requirements are put into terms of threshold and objective capabilities.

"The threshold is the 2010 time frame, 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 that form the basis of the operational 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," he said. That process will continue through December.

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