Future Combat RFP due soon

Within the next 10 days, the Army will be issuing a request for proposals for the system development and demonstration phase of its Future Combat Systems (FCS), the centerpiece of the service's transformation to the Objective Force.

The Objective Force is a strategy to develop advanced information technology tools, vehicles and weapons that will make the Army's armored forces better able to survive an all-out fight. The first unit is scheduled to be equipped in 2008, with initial operational capability by 2010.

FCS will equip Army vehicles with information and communications systems to give soldiers capabilities for command and control, surveillance and reconnaissance, direct and non-line-of-sight weapons firing, and personnel transport.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Yakovac, program executive officer for the Army's Ground Combat Systems, said the service is trying to get the RFP out by Feb. 14 and expects to issue it no later than Feb. 21.

"We're not time-driven, we're process-driven," Yakovac told Federal Computer Week following his opening comments Feb. 11 at an FCS event sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association in Arlington, Va.

The RFP will include the 24 subsystems and components that make up the core of FCS, including manned and unmanned ground vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors integration and more, Yakovac said. He added that once the RFP is released, the technology proposals will be due by March 17, with cost proposals due by March 31.

The Army is unsure how many contracts it will issue under the upcoming RFP, but it is expecting 24 to 30 contractors will receive awards ranging from $15 million to $700 million, according to an Army spokeswoman. She added that the serice is reserving the right to make one, multiple or no awards for each FCS component, and that further selection awards will be made between June and September.

On Feb. 11, Yakovac also publicly released for the first time the seven key performance parameters that the service's leadership approved last week for FCS. Among the parameters are survivability, reliability, training and joint interoperability.

The Army awarded a $154 million lead systems integrator contract to Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp. in March 2002, and that team is working with the service as it prepares to move on to the next phase, he said.

The only piece of FCS that has been sole-sourced to the lead integrator team is the distributed information management software component in the area of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. The team will competitively subcontract the other C4ISR components, Yakovac said.

The Army also has identified about 140 programs that are "potentially complementary" to FCS, including the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical and the Joint Tactical Radio System, and has assigned a full-time deputy program manager to prepare integration plans for those programs, he said.

The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical eventually will provide soldiers on the battlefield with modern, high-speed communications and real-time voice, video and data services. The Joint Tactical Radio System uses software-centric radios that can be programmed to patch users into various radio frequencies.

The Army, along with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Boeing/SAIC team and the vendor that is selected for the upcoming system development and demonstration phase, will present FCS to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for a milestone B decision in mid-May, Yakovac said.

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