Troubled Army programs 'dead meat'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Army has “little tolerance” for programs that run over cost and behind schedule in today’s fiscal climate, the service’s top acquisition official said.

“If we do not stay on track, we are dead meat,” said Claude Bolton, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology. He spoke yesterday at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual winter conference here.

The Army needs all the money it can get to equip soldiers waging the war on terrorism. The service and Congress will eventually take away money from programs that do not stick to their budgets and timelines, Bolton said. That lost funding could have been used for other initiatives, he added.

To keep programs on track, Defense Department evaluators and Army program managers must work together more closely. This means reducing needless meetings and tests that raise costs and pinch timelines -- oversight that turns into overkill, Bolton said.

Bolton described the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program as on cost, on schedule and on performance after 30 months. He said the service will not wait for the “big bang” from FCS and instead will equip soldiers with FCS technologies as they become ready.

Bolton said intelligent munitions, or unattended weapons on the battlefield that perform both offensive and defensive operations, will be the first FCS systems fielded in 2008. The first fully equipped FCS unit is planned for deployment in 2014, which is six years later than the ambitious schedule previous Army leaders set in 2001.

FCS is the Army’s next-generation fighting force of 18 lighter, lethal, and more mobile manned and robotic air and ground systems connected by a fast, secure network. The program will equip 15 brigades with FCS at a cost of $125 billion.

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