Army's Future Combat Systems at the heart of transformation

The Army's multiyear, multibillion-dollar Future Combat Systems (FCS) program marks one of the fastest procurements in the service's 228-year history.

In October 1999, Eric Shinseki, then the Army's chief of staff, launched a bold initiative to make forces lighter, modular and rapidly deployable. The service's current Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry carrier vehicles pack a potent warfighting punch, but at 70 tons and 35 tons, respectively, each takes up to 30 days to deploy to a combat zone.

Shinseki's goal was to field a brigade in four days, a division in five days and five divisions in 30 days. He first started a program to buy off-the-shelf and lighter, faster infantry carrier vehicles, eventually called Stryker, which are being used in Iraq. He then requested development of next-generation, smaller air and ground vehicles, both manned and robotic, that would use futuristic

offensive, defensive and communication systems to outsmart and outmaneuver heavier enemy forces on the battlefield.

Shinseki sought help from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to start the program because of its technological prowess and an expected backlash from Army communities that believe heavier, more powerful vehicles fight better. In May 2000, DARPA awarded four contracts to four industry teams to develop FCS designs.

With FCS gaining steam and protected by DARPA, Shinseki and Army procurement officials decided that an industry partner was needed to help manage the program after it transitioned out of DARPA. Service officials decided that a lead systems integrator should oversee development and production of the 18 air and ground vehicles that would fight as one, aided by a fast, secure communications network.

In March 2002, the Army selected the industry team of Boeing Co., located in Chicago, and Science Applications International Corp., located in San Diego, as the lead systems integrator. The two companies started awarding FCS study contracts in anticipation of the Defense Department approving the program.

On May 14, 2003, The Defense Acquisition Board approved FCS' next acquisition phase,

and the department on May 31, 2003, signed off on it. Boeing and SAIC by last August chose and awarded contracts to 21 companies to design and build its platforms, hardware and software.

Last December, Boeing and SAIC received a $14.8 billon contract from the Army to oversee the program through DOD's systems development and demonstration phase. On Dec. 15, 2003, General Dynamics Corp. and United Defense LP each received a $2 billion contract from Boeing and SAIC for engineering and development of the eight manned ground vehicles agreed to in January 2003.

In April, Officials from General Dynamics and United Defense will recommend to the Army, Boeing and SAIC the drive system, lethality and weight requirements for manned ground vehicles in the Manned Ground Vehicle Systems Requirements Review, said Peter Keating, director of communications and public relations for General Dynamics Land System. In August, the two companies will propose how voice, video, data and weapons systems should work inside the vehicles.

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