Army budget would kill Land Warrior

Defense Budget Materials

With one line item among hundreds of pages of budget documents released Feb. 5, the Army revealed that it is eliminating the $2 billion, 10-year-old Land Warrior program, even as a lone brigade of soldiers prepares to take the system on its first-ever field deployment to Iraq.

Until yesterday, Land Warrior was the military's vision for bringing network-centric warfare to level of the individual warfighter. But the system designed to connect every soldier the network was disconnected from any future funding.

”It’s listed as a program termination,” said Dave Atherton, the Army Budget Office’s division chief for communications and support investment, referring to  the Army’s $130 billion fiscal 2008 budget, released Feb 5.

Regardless, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) at Fort Lewis, Wash., will be the first unit sent to Iraq with the system in the coming weeks, as part of President Bush’s surge effort, months ahead of its scheduled deployment, a Fort Lewis spokesperson said. The unit has been testing and training with Land Warrior for over a year.

The soldiers of 4th Brigade specifically requested to take Land Warrior into theatre, despite the program’s demise and their shortened training, because there isn’t sufficient time for retraining, Atherton said.

The 4th Brigade was also scheduled to test Land Warrior at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., but now that has also been canceled. NTC is a common final stop for realistic training before Iraq deployments.

The unit will be fully supported throughout its Iraq deployment, Atherton said. The Army has funding for unit support and repair parts through 2007 and is confident they will find procurement or operating money to keep the unit alive in 2008.

Meanwhile, the program office for Land Warrior here at home will be shut down. The Army will buy replacement parts and materials to last during the duration of the deployment, Atherton said. In Iraq, the Contract Logistics Support team will be responsible for maintaining the Land Warrior soldiers.

The system’s weight and battery life were two problems that contributed to Land Warrior’s demise, according to Lt. Gen. David Melcher, military deputy for budget at the Assistant Secretary of the Army’s Financial Management and Comptroller office.

But Land Warrior program officers, at a media roundtable in December, said they were making progress on both of these long-standing concerns.

Land Warrior, under its latest configuration, includes an advanced combat helmet with an optical display attachment, a modified M-4 rifle, digital imaging equipment, a lithium-ion battery with a 12-hour life span, a voice and data radio, a Global Positioning System, a computer subsystem, a multifunction laser, and a control card for identity management.

Inside the optical viewer, soldiers can manipulate a cursor to send e-mail or text messages, call for air support or a medic, electronically mark a target, or take pictures to send to the command center.

The Army is looking for alternatives to give dismounted soldiers a point of presence on the network, Melcher said. One possibility is something called the Single Infantry Transport System, which has similar capabilities, he said.

The research from Land Warrior will be folded into the Future Force Warrior program, a component of the Future Combat System, Melcher said. The Army is setting up an FCS test bed at Fort Bliss, Texas, he added.

In the end, the Army decided Land Warrior was simply not the best use of limited resources in the future, officials said. “We just don’t see that as a long-term solution,” Melcher said.

The Program Executive Office – Soldier was in charge of Land Warrior. General Dynamics C4 Systems had been the lead contractor developing the system.


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