WASHINGTON (Aug. 13, 2010) -- The U.S. Army has released its tactical wheeled vehicle acquisition strategy report to Congress, calling for a tailorable approach to vehicle procurement to include new buys and repair, sustainment and recapitalization of the existing fleet.

The acquisition strategy lays out a roadmap for tactical wheeled vehicles, including the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicles from 2010 through 2025.

"The acquisition objective is to have the ability to adapt to change and mitigate the risk of uncertainty caused by an evolving threat," said Tim Goddette, director, Combat Sustainment Systems.

"The challenge is finding the balance between an unconstrained requirements process and a constrained resource process that promotes stability and efficiencies."

Overall, the report takes up plans for the 260,000 TWVs in the Army inventory, representing an initial procurement investment of $50 billion.

The acquisition strategy is nested in the philosophy that combat and threat circumstances are subject to change, thus resulting in a commensurate need to shift procurement strategy in response to prevailing combat and budgetary circumstances.

"Finding the right balance and mix of TWVs requires the Army to continually assess and adjust investments," the report states. "Managing this fleet effectively goes beyond simply buying new vehicles as the existing vehicles age beyond their useful life. We will use a combination of new procurement, repair (sustainment), recapitalization (recap), and divesture to achieve our strategic objective by addressing the readiness and mission issues of the fleet."

For instance, the report calls for sustainment and recapitalization of 50,000 up-armored Humvees and the progressive divestiture of up to 50,000 aging Humvees -- to be incrementally replaced by the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV.

For the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles or FMTVs -- the Army will continue to buy new ones, 44,000 will be sustained through reset, and up to 28,000 aging trucks will be retired or divested, according to the report. In addition, the Army's truck divesture plan calls for complete divesture of all M35 2.5-ton vehicles by the end of FY11.

The report also places a premium on fostering competition within industry so as to increase productivity and reduce costs; it is important to have contract mechanisms in place such that production can surge should that be needed, the report says.

"Competition improves quality and reduces costs, while providing the Army access to a full range of industry (depot, private, or public private teaming) capabilities, processes and potential technical advances," the report says.

Armor Protection

Also, the report points out how post-9/11 conflicts have changed the mission scope and threat levels encountered by tactical trucks in today's current wars and this phenomenon has had a distinct impact on the procurement of tactical trucks as it has evolved to meet current and evolving threats.

Prior to the events leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, the main focus of effort on the TWV fleet consisted primarily on vehicle performance and payload, according to the report.

"The general assumption was that the battlefield was linear such that combat vehicles positioned forward in formations required protection from enemy fire, but tactical vehicles providing supporting functions did not," the report states.

"The result was a fleet designed without the burden of armor protection and the corresponding automotive impacts that potential add-on armor would have on critical truck sub-components like the engine, suspension, transmission, and axles."

The report goes on to point out that the events following 9/11 and the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism had a significant impact on the TWV fleet, in particular the need for armored trucks. Assumptions about the linear battlefields of the Cold War gave way to the complex, urban terrain and supporting the forward operating bases of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the report.

"Without a front line, all vehicles proved to be targets of enemy fire, particularly emergent threats of improvised explosive devices that would drive the need for greater and greater protection levels across the truck fleet," the report states.

These dynamics have lead to the creation of a Long Term Armor Strategy, or LTAS which, according to the report, seeks to build tactical trucks with an A-kit, B-kit modular armor approach -- allowing trucks to adjust their protection to the potential threats they will face in combat.

"The A-kit is designed to accept additional armor in the form of a B-kit. The A-kit/B-kit concept allows the Army flexibility in several areas: the armor B-kit can be taken off when not needed -- reducing unnecessary wear and tear on the vehicles; the Army can continue to pursue upgrades in armor protection -- adapting B-kits to match the threat; and the versatility of the B-kit enables the transfer of armor from unit to unit -- makes armor requirements affordable by pooling assets versus buying armor that is only for one vehicle," the report states.

When it comes to buying armor, the strategy seeks to make room for the acquisition community to accommodate the pace of technological change and buy newer materials as they emerge.

"With armor, since it is ever-changing, our industry partners are constantly finding new ways to improve its effectiveness. You want to buy a certain amount and then to make sure you have the best going to the field and a source you can surge into production as needed," said Col. Mark Barbosa, division chief for Focused Logistics, Army G8. "We are integrating the elements TRADOC and G3 worked very hard on in the long term protection strategy in the Tactical Vehicle Strategy which covers all the fleets."

"Everybody wants to get the product right so that when you go to war you meet expectations and there are no shortcomings," said Goddette. "You don't' always know what kind of war you might be called upon to fight, so we must be flexible. How do we apply the art of acquisition to meet the uncertainty of the world we live in'"

(Kris Osborn writes for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.))