01 Apr 05. The International Herald Tribune reported that the cost of the U.S. FCS System (Dubbed by BATTLESPACE as Future Cash System) has become so expensive that some of the military’s strongest supporters in Congress are questioning the program’s costs and complexity.
Army officials said Saturday that the first phase of the program, called Future Combat Systems, could cost $145 billion. Paul Boyce, an army spokesman, said the “technological bridge to the future” would equip 15 brigades of roughly 3,000 soldiers, or about one-third of the force the army plans to field, for 20 years. The price, larger than past estimates disclosed by the army, does not include a projected $25 billion for the communications needed to connect the future forces. Nor does it fully account for army plans to provide the Future Combat Systems weapons and technologies to forces beyond those first 15 brigades. Now some of the military’s advocates in Congress are asking how to pay the bill.
“We’re dealing today with a train wreck,” Representative Curt Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at congressional hearing March 16 on the cost and complexity of Future Combat Systems.
“We’re left with impossible decisions,” added Weldon, a strong supporter of Pentagon spending who was lamenting the trillion-dollar costs for the major weapons systems the Pentagon is building. One of those choices, he warned, might cut back Future Combat Systems.
The army sees Future Combat Systems, the most expensive weapons program it has undertaken, as a seamless web of 18 sets of networked weapons and military robots. The program is at the heart of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s campaign to transform the army into a faster, lighter force in which stripped-down tanks could be put on a transport plane and flown into battle, and information systems could protect soldiers of the future as heavy armor has protected them in the past.
Army officials say the task is a technological challenge as complicated as putting an astronaut on the moon. They call the Future Combat Systems weapons, which may take more than a decade to field, crucial to a global fight against terror. But the bridge to the future remains a blueprint. Army officials issued a stop-work order in January for the network that would link the Future Combat
Systems weapons, citing its failure to progress. They said in March that they did not know if they could build a tank light enough to fly.
The army is asking Congress to approve Future Combat Systems while it is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan whose costs, according to the
Congressional Research Service, exceed $275 billion. Future Combat Systems is one of the biggest items in the Pentagon’s plans to build more than 70 major weapons systems, at a cost of more than $1.3 trillion.
The army has canceled two major weapons programs, the Crusader artillery system and the Comanche helicopter, “to protect funding for the Future Combat System,” said Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and a member of the Armed Services Committee. “That is why we have to get the FCS program right.”
David Walker, comptroller general of the United States, said in an interview that the Pentagon’s future arsenal was unaffordable and Congress needed “to make some choices now.”
“There is a substantial gap between what the Pentagon is seeking in weapons systems and what we will be able to afford and sustain,” said Walker, who oversees the Government Accountability Office, the budget watchdog of Congress. “We are not going to be able to afford all of this.”
He added, “Every dollar we spend on a want today is a dollar we won’t be able to spend on a need tomorrow.”
Paul Francis, acquisition and sourcing management director for the
accountability office, told Congress that the army was building Future Combat Systems without the data it needed to guide it.
“If everything goes as pla