Army, GAO clash on FCS

General Accounting Office and Army officials differ on how the service should develop the Future Combat Systems, a next-generation force of 18 lighter, more mobile manned and robotic air and ground systems connected via a fast, secure communications network.

GAO officials think the Army should develop and demonstrate key FCS systems and technologies before proceeding with the program to avoid cost and schedule problems. Army leaders believe working on system elements simultaneously offers the best opportunity for synergy.

The Army will spend $14.8 billion to develop FCS and start equipping units with the new weapon system in 2010, said Army spokesman Maj. Gary Tallman. Officials plan to spend $92 billion to equip 15 modular, brigade-sized units with the new system by 2020, according to a recent GAO report and a Defense Department acquisition statement released in September 2003.

The Army faces technical challenges in meeting the 2010 goal of developing and demonstrating FCS components, which include 18 systems, 157 complementary systems, 53 technologies, 34 million lines of software code and a new network. The service has only allowed itself five and a half years from the program's start in May 2003 and the production decision in November 2008, said Paul Francis, GAO's director of acquisition and sourcing management, in testimony yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee's Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee.

About 75 percent of FCS components were in the early stages of development when the Army started the program. Contractors will not deliver the first FCS prototypes until just before the production decision, Francis said. And the $92 billion cost estimate, in 2020 dollars, only pays for 14 of the 18 FCS components. A modest development delay could cost $5 billon, and a delay in production could cost $7 billion, he said.

"When taking into account the lessons learned from commercial best practices and the experiences of past programs, the FCS strategy is likely to result in cost and schedule consequences if problems are discovered late in development," Francis said.

To avoid cost and schedule problems, GAO recommends that Army officials consider:

Adding time to the FCS acquisition schedule.

Developing the most critical technologies and systems first, such as the network, before proceeding with the acquisition program.

Army officials think developing systems individually would hurt the FCS program, said Lt. Gen. Joe Yakovac, deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, in testimony to the committee.

"The most important effort for the development of the unit of action is the application of [a] sound system of systems engineering, beginning first with good analysis and functional allocation of requirements," Yakovac said. "To separate individual entities from the overall FCS development, at this time, would be detrimental to the complex integration effort so critical to the success of the FCS program."

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