Army plans spring deployment of ABCS

The Army will take the Army Battle Command System servicewide starting in late spring 2004, according to officials at General Dynamics Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

The Army will begin making ABCS 6.4 available in May, said an official with General Dynamics C4 Systems in Taunton, Mass. The servicewide initiative should start by this summer, said an official with Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems and Solutions in Gaithersburg, Md. Both officials requested anonymity.

The Army has spent $20 billion since 1994 to create ABCS, a network of 11 applications that provides warfighting data, such as artillery stocks and intelligence, to computers in command centers and the vehicles of commanders and troops in combat. The Army decided to field the hardware, software and systems initially only to III Corps, the Army's Fort Hood, Texas-based go-to-war force.

But Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who was recently appointed Army chief of staff, said in October that he wants "good enough" digitization for the entire Army, and the service's top armor officer confirmed that same month that digitization effort would go servicewide.

"As part of the Army's review of current ABCS systems, we have recently developed a strategy and set aside resources for providing a 'good enough' digital battle command capability to the rest of the force," said Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker, commanding general of the Army Armor Center and Fort Knox, Ky. "In fact, we intend to provide this digital battle command capability within the next four years."

Army officials define "good enough" as giving soldiers the ability to accomplish missions. The Army used commercial hardware in the Balkans to transmit earlier ABCS applications, but in Afghanistan and Iraq the service used the proprietary Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below 10-inch computer terminals operating ABCS 6.3 in helicopters and vehicles.

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