Army vendor team advances FCS

The lead systems integrator team for the Army's Future Combat System announced this week that it has added new subcontractors to its team as it nears completion of the FCS concept and technology development phase.

FCS will equip manned and unmanned 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 lead systems integrator team — Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp. — was awarded the $154 million contract in March. It is responsible for coming up with an operational architecture that will link the communications components of systems so that the Army can determine platform requirements, said Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, the Army's chief information officer.

The Army and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), working with the Boeing-SAIC team, awarded the most recent contracts, which total more than $8 million. The contracts were awarded to more than 25 different companies representing "the best of industry," as well as Carnegie Mellon University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said Jerry McElwee, Boeing vice president and FCS program manager. He added that the latest round of 68 awards would be complete by the end of this month.

Remaining on the Army's aggressive schedule for FCS - the centerpiece for the Army's transformation into the Objective Force - is the lead systems integrator team's primary concern, but it is achievable, McElwee said.

The Objective Force is the service's strategy to develop advanced information technology tools, vehicles and weaponry to make the Army's armored forces more agile and lethal. The first unit is scheduled to be employed in 2008, and initial operational capability in 2010.

"Every technology has a different half-life," McElwee said. "From the [lead systems integrator] perspective, once we've designed it, we'll buy the [parts] just in time, integrate, validate and move on. We have the will, the funding. Technology will continue to develop at its current pace or faster, and we will meet the Army's deadline."

Steve Marion, program director for supplier management for FCS at Boeing, said a request for proposals will be released in January, which will include the full scope of architectures and specifications developed in the concept and technology development phase. He added that the RFP is not limited to vendors who participated in previous FCS work.

McElwee said the FCS' system design and demonstration phase, which is slated to begin next spring pending DOD approval, is estimated to cost between $5 billion and $7 billion.

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