AUSA: A recently retired general officer summed up the mood among many Army officers and defense industry officials here yesterday: “This is the worst, most depressing situation I’ve seen in 34 years of service.”
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program is just one indicator in that depressing scenario facing the Army. The service still plans to buy 49,000 of the armored tactical vehicles designed to replace the Humvee and the Marines plan to buy at least 5,500, But that commitment is under intense pressure, program officials made clear here.
It faces what the Army colonel who is the program manager – John Cavedo – called “a perfect storm” of the Continuing Resolution, sequestration (and the dual-track planning for two different budget levels it requires), civilian workforce furloughs, and the federal government shutdown. “But despite all of that we still have the train on the track,” Col. Cavedo told reporters here. “We’re not going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”
Doing that will not be easy. Part of the reason for the glum faces here is the incredible uncertainty generated by the combination of congressional inaction and vacillation, sequestration and the impact this is all having as the next budget is built.
“It used to be you could make a plan and work on it. Now it seems we are planning and executing for 15 minutes,” the colonel said. “On any given day there are five or six different [budget] drills.”
Combine that with uncertainty about the future size of the Army and the Marines (aka “force structure”) over the next few years and the JLTV program is basically clinging to its old plans and hoping nothing changes too much.
Meanwhile, the program basically froze during the government shutdown, not because JLTV funding stopped but because testing stopped. Now they are “several weeks behind” and the testing grounds are still coming back up to speed after being shut down with four hours notice.
There was no talk of the Marines pulling out or curtailing their commitment to JLTV at this AUSA — but there were hints that the Marines’ acquisition strategy may change: Instead of buying the first 5,500 to come off the production line, the Marines may stretch out their buy and share some of the first production vehicles with the Army.