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Gates Plans Massive Expansion Of The Future Combat System

In testimony this week to Congress Secretary of Defense Gates describes why he recommended canceling the vehicle portion of the Army's major modernization effort -- Future Combat System (FCS). Next to the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) this is the largest currently planned program for the U.S. military.

Gate's gave two reasons for the redesign of the program. First, the contract with the Lead System Integrator (LSI), Boeing, had an award fee structure that favored them. Most of the fee would be paid at an early design review leaving little motivation for the contractor as prototyping, integration and testing is carried out. The second was that the vehicles had started being designed before "Overseas Contingency Operations" began in Iraq or Afghanistan and do not reflect the lessons learned about from that conflict.

There was no awareness of the IED threat and the vehicles were not optimized to protect against those and mines. Gates also wants to review how best to integrate the existing fleet of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles into the program. While Boeing was not the manufacturer of the vehicles the restructuring of the LSI contract will significantly effect its revenue in the short term.

The FCS program will continue with focus on the unmanned aerial and ground vehicles and the data link that were to make the whole thing work. There is still a requirement for the ground vehicles and a new set of requirements and contract will be developed over time. Of interest Gates said during his testimony that all planned forty-five Army brigades would be equipped with some part of FCS. The original plan was for only fifteen. This means if FCS goes forward there will be a much larger production requirement then originally considered. If and when the system goes into service that will require a significant expanding of funding for the program.

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