Army issues Future Combat RFPs

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—The Army last week issued the 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.

The RFP includes the proposals for the 24 subsystems and components for the core of FCS, including manned and unmanned ground vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, sensors integration and more, said Claude Bolton Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, during his Feb. 26 speech at the Association of the U.S. Army's winter symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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 on the selection process for the latest RFPs, Bolton said.

However, he noted, "the final decision is mine…to ensure a level playing field for everybody."

The RFPs were released Feb. 18 on the FCS advanced collaborative environment Web site, which is available to qualified vendors. The RFP was also sent via overnight mail to all suppliers who qualified for any of the RFPs, according to a spokeswoman for the lead systems integrator team. The technology proposals are due by March 17, and cost proposals are due by March 31, she said.

Army officials are unsure how many contracts they will issue under the RFP, but 24 to 30 vendors will probably receive awards ranging from $15 million to $700 million, according to an Army spokeswoman. She added that the service could make one, multiple or no awards for each FCS component. The selection awards will be made between June and September, she said.

Bolton said the Army's leadership recently identified and approved seven key performance parameters for FCS: survivability, sustainability/reliability, training, networked battle command, networked lethality, transportability and joint interoperability.

The Joint Requirements Oversight Council was also involved in that process and reiterated to the Army how important FCS — and its system-of-systems approach focused on joint interoperability — is to the entire Defense Department, he said.

A. Michael Andrews II, the Army's deputy assistant secretary for research and technology and its chief scientist, showed demonstrations and results of recent tests of numerous FCS technologies, including several different unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned combat vehicles and active protection measures. Not all the tests were successful, but they have proven the possibilities in those areas and others, he said.

The Army, along with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Boeing/SAIC team and the vendors selected for the system development and demonstration phase, will present FCS to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the next milestone decision in mid-May, Bolton said.

The Army is estimating that FCS will require about $22.7 billion in research, development and acquisition funding from fiscal 2004 to fiscal 2009, and about $3.1 billion for enabling technologies in that same period, he said.

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