Future Combat pushed to next decade

http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d031010r.pdf

The cornerstone of the Army's transformation efforts will no longer be ready by the end of the decade, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office.

According to the report, Army leaders recently extended the development and demonstration phase of Future Combat Systems (FCS) by two years, which means the service has abandoned its original goal of declaring initial operational capability by 2008 and full capability by 2010.

FCS will tie together 19 systems that use advanced communications and technologies to link soldiers with air and ground platforms and sensors. The Army plans to spend about $22 billion for the program from fiscal 2004 through fiscal 2009, and several billion more for non-FCS programs that the "system of systems" requires.

An Aug. 13 letter from Paul Francis, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management, says FCS officials have decided to:

* Add about two years between milestones B and C.

* Push back the target date for equipping the first unit with FCS to 2011, rather than 2008 as currently planned.

* Delay the deadline for full operational capability to fiscal 2013.

Francis' letter, sent to congressional leaders, details April briefings that GAO officials had with Army and other Defense Department leaders on the planned system.

The Army received approval May 18 to move FCS into the nearly $15 billion system development and demonstration phase. Edward "Pete" Aldridge Jr., then-undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, signed the milestone B decision after a meeting of the Defense Acquisition Board.

That decision was made even though there was "more risk present than recommended by best practices or DOD guidance," the GAO report states.

"For example, many critical technologies were significantly immature and will require further development at the same time as product development is conducted," agency officials wrote, adding that even with the deadline extension, the Army would have to develop multiple systems and a network in less time than the military normally takes for one advanced system.

GAO officials suggested three options, including: further developing individual technologies before pushing the entire FCS into the demonstration phase; using advanced technology demonstrations to mature key technologies; and using a knowledge-based approach for incorporating individual systems into the overall network.

According to GAO, Defense officials said they had no objections to the content of the Aug. 13 letter.

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