Army issues Future Combat solicitations

Boeing's FCS Web site

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Army officials recently issued requests for proposals (RFPs) for the 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 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 nonline-of-sight weapons firing, and personnel transport.

The Army is accepting proposals for the 24 subsystems and components that form FCS' core, including manned and unmanned vehicles, integrated sensors and more, said Claude Bolton Jr., assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, during a Feb. 26 speech at the Association of the U.S. Army's (AUSA) 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. That team is working with the service on the selection process for the latest RFPs, Bolton said, but "the final decision is mine to ensure a level playing field for everybody."

The Army and its partners will present an update on FCS to the Defense Acquisition Board for the next milestone decision in mid-May, Bolton said. The Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, said that decision is critical.

"It's a referendum on the system-of-systems concept" that will affect the Defense Department's overall transformation efforts, Shinseki said.

The RFPs were released Feb. 18, according to a spokeswoman for the lead systems integrator team. Technology proposals are due by March 17 and cost proposals by March 31, she said.

Army officials have not decided how many contracts they will issue under the RFPs, 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, many or no awards for each FCS component between June and September.

Army leaders recently approved seven key performance parameters for FCS: survivability, sustainability/reliability, training, networked battle command, networked lethality, transportability and joint interoperability.

A. Michael Andrews II, the Army's deputy assistant secretary for research and technology, shared the results of recent tests of FCS technologies. Not all the tests were successful, but they have proven their potential in numerous areas.

Army officials estimate that FCS will require nearly $26 billion in funding from fiscal years 2004 t0 2009, he said.

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