Army's FCS moving to next phase

Boeing's FCS site

The Army received approval this week to move the Future Combat Systems (FCS) to its next phase — from concept and technology development to system development and demonstration.

The announcement is significant because it demonstrates the continued interest, support and financial backing of the program by the Army and the Defense Department.

FCS, the Army's combat transformation cornerstone, is a networked family of systems that uses advanced communications and technologies to link soldiers with manned and unmanned air and ground platforms and sensors.

The Army Systems Acquisition Review Council approved the Army's position on designating the FCS program as a single Major Defense Acquisition Program (MDAP).

In order to be an MDAP, an acquisition program must either be designated as such by the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics or estimated by the undersecretary to require an eventual total expenditure for research, development, test, and evaluation of more than $365 million in fiscal 2000 constant dollars or more than $2.19 billion in procurement in fiscal 2000 constant dollars.

The council also gave:

* Approval to enter the system development and demonstration phase.

* Approval of the time-phased development approach for individual systems leading to initial operational capability. The Army plans to achieve initial operational capability of an FCS-equipped unit by the end of the decade.

* Approval for Army management below the MDAP program level.

The Army will present the program for formal Milestone B decision and entrance into System Development and Demonstration at a meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board scheduled for May 14.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) currently manages the concept and technology development phase of the program. Following entry into the system development and demonstration phase, the U.S. Army Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems (PEO-GCS) will take responsibility for systems integration, production, fielding and sustainment.

Once the project moves into its next developmental phase, the first stages of prototyping will take place, as will the further development of proven concepts.

Felicia Campbell, strategic communications manager for FCS, said she expects a "rapid report" on the future of FCS to come out of the Defense Acquisition Board meeting May 1. She said the project team fully expects to begin the system development and demonstration phase in June.

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