WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 17, 2009) - Even though the manned ground vehicle part of the Future Combat Systems has been canceled, the Army G-8 told Association of U.S. Army members July 16 that the Army had created a blue-ribbon panel to study alternatives to the former vehicle.

Deputy Chief of Staff G-8 Lt. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes said that after Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates canceled the manned ground vehicle program, the Army vice chief of staff created and chaired the panel which is looking at ideas from academics and think-tanks as well as from platoon sergeants, senior noncommissioned officers and captains who have seen and felt combat.

"They have a clear idea of what they want in their future, so this will help us be thoughtful and relevant with what we design," Speakes told some 200 AUSA members at its monthly Land Warfare breakfast series here. With regard to the type of vehicles that will be looked at, Speakes said they could be a mix of heavy, medium and light and range from scout vehicles to command and control.

He added that the panel will help the Army be more accurate and effective in creating a better modernization strategy than the Army's previous version. The results of the panel's findings will be forwarded to the Defense Department by September.

Speakes said Army modernization will continue to address current and future needs of Soldiers along with the upgrading of selected systems for those Soldiers headed into combat areas. He added that the Army would continue to review and implement changes based on lessons learned.

"Our modernization approach must objectively answer both the needs of the current and the future," he said. "This Army will never sacrifice the needs of a Soldier in combat today or in the foreseeable or unforeseeable future. We're committed to being responsive to change, and we're trying to think aggressively about how we're doing things from lessons learned."

The general also said challenges ahead for the Army include keeping the all-volunteer force, adapting to new rules, balancing the current and the future and streamlining an antiquated acquisition system. Speakes reiterated that Army leadership would continue to make its prime focus "first and foremost on Soldiers and their families" as the Army transforms and modernizes.