By Fred W. Baker IIIFebruary 9, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 9, 2007) - The Army's Future Combat System program has been restructured as part of a "balancing act" between equipping the current force and modernizing the future force, a top Army acquisition official said yesterday.
Under the restructuring, four of the 18 systems in the program were deferred, and the fielding rate for the system's brigade combat teams was stretched out over five more years. The changes to the FCS program will eliminate $3.4 billion from its budget over the next five fiscal years, Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, deputy for acquisition and systems management, told Pentagon reporters.
The FCS was designed as a "family" of 18 individual systems, plus the network and the soldier - referred to as 18+1+1. The systems are a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles, sensors, launch systems and unmanned aerial vehicles. All are connected by a common network with the Soldier. With four of the systems deferred, the system is now 14+1+1.
None of the program adjustments compromise the systems' capabilities, he said.
"Clearly we've had to go through a very difficult period here in terms of making sure we can modernize as well as support the current operations and the current force," Sorenson said.
"It was a balancing act with respect to funding priorities in modernization as well as making sure the current force is taken care of," he said.
Most significantly, the changes call for stretching the fielding of the 15 FCS brigade combat teams from over a 10-year period to 15 years. The fielding for the first is slated for fiscal 2015. This will reduce costs by roughly $700 million.
Two of the four classes of unmanned aerial vehicles in the program were deferred after a study concluded that there wasn't an immediate need. But, additional funds were redirected in the program to buy more of the two remaining classes of UAVs whose prototypes have been successful in Iraq, officials said.
The heavy armed robotic vehicle system was deferred to later in the program, but the numbers of some lighter robotic versions were increased.
Also, the intelligent munitions system, an armed sensor that allows troops to control an area without a physical troop presence, was separated from the program. The Army will not buy any more than what is currently under contract to produce. But, again, the numbers of other sensors in the program were increased.
Besides reducing costs, the changes will deliver future technologies into the hands of troops in the fight quicker, Sorenson said.
In 2005, program officials developed a "spin out" strategy, which would field elements of the FCS family of systems as they were developed, instead of waiting until the complete system is fielded.
Initially, some of the unmanned systems and part of the network will be fielded, Sorenson said.
Starting in fiscal 2008, program officials hope to deliver some of the unattended ground sensors to Soldiers. There are two categories of the sensors: tactical and urban. The sensors can be used to gather intelligence and conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as provide troops additional security as they clear and secure buildings.
The network, which will enhance battle command capabilities, will be available as much as two years earlier under the restructuring.
Sorenson said that, despite the cuts, FCS remains the largest modernization program for the Army. The program is on time, on cost and still the No. 1 priority of Army leadership, he said.
"It is absolutely the No. 1 priority. And, though we've had to make some adjustments in the program, we have not walked away from the fact that the Army will have to have to modernize in the future," Sorenson said.
Total cost of the program is expected to be $162 billion with another $2 billion slated for additional construction required.
Sorenson said he does not anticipate problems with the program being approved as part of the newly submitted defense budget.
(Fred W. Baker III writes for the American Forces Press Service.)