Army moves on transformation
- By Dan Caterinicchia, Dan Caterinicchia
- May 26, 2003
Pentagon officials last week approved the Army's plan to move Future Combat Systems (FCS) — the cornerstone of its transformation effort — into the $15 billion system development and demonstration phase, but the move must overcome Army leadership vacancies and concerns on Capitol Hill.
Just before retiring last week, Edward "Pete" Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, signed a milestone decision after a May 14 meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board, according to Army officials.
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.
The move is significant not only for the Army's transformation efforts, but also for the entire Defense Department, industry, and the research and development communities, said Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.
The approval is a "clear and unambiguous" sign that the secretary of Defense and Army leaders are committed to transforming, said Lt. Gen. John Riggs, director of the Objective Force Task Force.
"I think a lot of this is hard work associated with synchronization," Riggs said, adding that warfighters 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," he said.
Making the Transition
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency managed the concept and technology development phase of FCS. Following entry into the system development and demonstration phase, the Army program executive officer for ground combat systems, Maj. Gen. Joseph Yakovac Jr., will take responsibility for systems integration, production, fielding and sustainment.
Yakovac said periodic reviews on the program's status 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 and its lead systems integrator team of Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp. issued requests for proposals for the 23 subsystems and components that form FCS' core. Those selections will be made this summer and early fall, Yakovac said.
The systems 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 subsystems and then coordinate and integrate the solutions to ensure they all work together.
The Army Systems Acquisition Review Council last month approved the designation of FCS as a single major defense acquisition program, which changes how the program budget is managed. It means that DOD manages FCS as one budget item rather than multiple line items.
That change angered members of the House Armed Services Committee. Lawmakers matched the Army's $1.7 billion request for FCS, but recommended restructuring the program so that the project and future initiatives are funded separately and the funds are not released until 30 days after the Army provides sufficient detail to Congress justifying the budget request.
The Senate Armed Services Committee also fully funded the program and did not include any recommendations.
Another complicating factor is that the Army will be without its two top leaders. Army Secretary Thomas White resigned earlier this month, and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki is scheduled to retire in June. Air Force Secretary James Roche has been nominated to fill the vacant Army slot, but has yet to be approved, and Gen. John Keane, the Army's vice chief of staff, has already announced that he will not succeed Shinseki.
"As the new leadership comes on board, there will be a continuous assessment process," Riggs said. "It's fair to say that their views will have some impact on the current course."
Caldwell agreed and said there is ample opportunity for whoever fills the leadership posts to leave their mark on FCS.
"We're at the tail end of concept development," he said. "There's plenty of time and latitude for the leadership to take a look at this program...and have their fingerprints on it."