FCS

BAE technicians work on the "hotbuck" testbed for their Ground Combat Vehicle design.

As storm clouds loom over the Army’s controversial Ground Combat Vehicle, both contractors competing for GCV say they’re focused on completing the program of record still on the books. But if the Army slows the program down – a near-certainty at this point – both BAE Systems and General Dynamics told me they are ready to adapt. In… Keep reading →


The Army’s senior leadership is determined to spend money on a new Ground Combat Vehicle (CV) to replace the aging Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicle. On the one hand, the admission that tracked mobile armored firepower is critical to survival and success in future combat is gratifying. On the other hand, the determination to focus on incremental improvements to a single piece of equipment in isolation from the warfighting requirements of the larger joint force is disappointing. Frankly, it makes no sense to replace Bradleys inside the existing Army force structure. Without a new Army force design in place, an Army design for Joint, integrated warfare against capable future adversaries with armies, air forces and air defenses, this Army program should be canceled and defunded. This is not the time to build a better carburetor. It’s time for fuel injection.

What Congress should compel the Army to perform is objective analysis and experimentation. Congress should demand the Army’s four stars capture the budget, schedule, performance, and structure base line. The Army must identify the costs and savings associated with current and future equipment, especially in the context of the current force design. Keep in mind “modularity” started out at $20 billion and eventually reached $48 billion. By the time the future combat system (FCS) was canceled, the American Taxpayer had already lost at least $20 billion. Keep reading →

Reaping the Benefits of a Global Defense Industry

Greg Sanders CSIS photo

  As the Defense Department’s budget goes down, the number of contracts awarded without competitive bids is going up. The share of contracts awarded without competition has risen from 39 percent in 2009 to 42 percent in 2012, according to a report I co-authored with Jesse Ellman and Rhys McCormick on DoD Contracting Trends. The news for… Keep reading →

ARLINGTON, VA: At $2.6 million, the contract award that Lockheed Martin will announce today to upgrade something called the Distributed Common Ground System is a rounding error in the aerospace giant’s $46.5 billion annual revenue. But in an age of austerity, when mega-programs like Lockheed’s flagship Joint Strike Fighter are under ever-increasing scrutiny, small can be beautiful. The DCGS approach — modest, incremental, and based on free open-source software — is an interesting model for a difficult era.

DCGS does what’s called “fusion,” combining “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance” (ISR) data from different kinds of drones and manned aircraft into a single coherent picture for analysts on the ground. The different services all have their different variants, with something called the DCGS Integrated Backbone (DIB) supposed to connect them. That’s the kind of complex IT integration challenge that has bedeviled programs like the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) — for which Lockheed also did fusion work before its cancellation in 2009 — and at one point DIB seemed headed down that same, well-trodden road to nowhere. Keep reading →

WASHINGTON: How much will it really cost to shut down the Army’s ill-fated Future Combat Systems program? Up to $1.5 billion, potentially three times the “special termination cost” reported by Inside Defense on Friday. Keep reading →

Washington: The end has finally come for the Army’s Multifunction Utility Logistics Vehicle, better known inside the Pentagon as the Army MULE.

The Defense Department’s procurement chief Ash Carter put the final nail in the program last week, issuing an Acquisition Decision Memorandum canceling the program on July 29, according to recent news reports.

A remnant of the Army’s defunct Future Combat Systems program the MULE was designed to haul heavy weapons and equipment for ground combat units, keeping those troops more mobile in the field.

But rising costs and schedule delays on the MULE, as well as most of the individual systems in FCS, prompted then Defense Secretary Robert Gates to terminate the entire FCS effort in 2009.

The Army did attempt to spin out some of the individual FCS systems as stand-alone programs — the MULE being one of those programs — to varying success.

While Carter’s decision was just a formality, since Army leaders opted to put the MULE down for good earlier this year, one former Army officer thinks the decision could not have come soon enough.

The Army has no one else to blame but themselves for the acquisition troubles that eventually ended the MULE, and FCS before it, defense expert and former Army colonel Doug Macgregor said. (Macgregor is a member of the Breaking Defense Board of Contributors)

Both programs were prime examples of the Army’s lack of accountability within its senior program acquisition ranks, Macgregor said.

“In contrast to the Navy where flag officers are regularly relieved for many reasons including ship building failures, not a single general officer inside the Army is held accountable for these disasters or those oversea,” MacGregor said.

And in the case of recent Army acquisition woes rooted in that lack of accountability FCS is just the tip of the iceburg.

Many of the top brass who allowed FCS to spiral out of control are now key players in the GCV on the industry side, Macgregor pointed out. “Under the circumstances, no one should be surprised at [these] long list of failures,” he said.


But the failures on the acquisition side that ended up killing the MULE does not mean the Army should abandon the use of unmanned ground vehicles, another defense expert says.

The advantages that unmanned vehicles bring to the fight outweigh the troubles the Army and the other services have had in getting those platforms in the field, according to Dakota Wood, a senior defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment.

“Regardless the outcome of the MULE or elements of the now-cancelled FCS program, unmanned systems have proven to be force multipliers at far less overall expense that increasing the number of people on the battlefield,” he said.

“But as with any new and evolving technology, we will experience set-backs and redirection as we determine what works, and what works at an acceptable cost in a resource-constrained world,” Wood added.