Future Combat passes milestone

The Army received approval May 18 to move the cornerstone of its transformation — Future Combat Systems — into the nearly $15 billion system development and demonstration phase.

Edward "Pete" Aldridge Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, signed the milestone B decision after last week's meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board, according to Army officials. Aldridge is scheduled to retire this week.

FCS is a networked family of 18 systems that uses advanced communications and technologies to link soldiers with manned and unmanned air and ground platforms and sensors.

Speaking May 19 at a Pentagon press briefing, Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said the milestone B approval is significant not only to the Army's transformation, but also to the entire Defense Department, industry, and the research and development communities.

Lt. Gen. John Riggs, director of the Objective Force Task Force, agreed and said approval is a "clear and unambiguous" illustration that the secretary of defense and the Army's leadership are committed to transforming.

"I think a lot of this is hard work associated with synchronization," Riggs said, adding that Marines and solders don't care where a solution came from as long as it works and gets to them in a timely manner. "Jointness is absolutely essential."

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency managed 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 will take responsibility for systems integration, production, fielding and sustainment.

Ground combat systems PEO Maj. Gen. Joseph Yakovac Jr. said periodic reviews on the status of the program will continue. Because of the "system of systems" approach the Army is taking, "it's a logical extension of what we're trying to do."

The next major review will take place in about 18 months and will be led by the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

In February, the Army, along with its lead systems integrator team of Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), issued requests for proposals for the 23 subsystems and components that form FCS' core. Those selections will be made "this summer and in early fall," Yakovac said.

The system development and demonstration phase is valued at $14.92 billion, and Army officials said they expect about 70 percent of that total to go to the subcontractors that receive those awards.

Dennis Muilenburg, FCS lead systems integrator program manager, said the Boeing/SAIC team's role is to award contracts for the 23 RFPs and then coordinate and integrate the solutions to ensure they all work together.

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