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27 Aug 10. Why did the U.S. Army delay its Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) development effort? Because it didn’t learn a key lesson of the failed Future Combat Systems (FCS) program: don’t overreach. Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli wanted to know what the Ground Combat Vehicle would provide that an upgraded Bradley armored fighting vehicle wouldn’t. That’s the consensus from industry and congressional officials, as well as the DoD-Army red team whose review led the Army to cancel the request for proposals it issued in February. In an Aug. 25 announcement, service officials said they would issue a revised request in 60 days.
“The new RfP will reflect changes to the program’s efforts to minimize technology integration risk and to ensure that we have a viable acquisition strategy to deliver the vehicle within seven years of the contract award,” GCV program spokesman Paul Mehney said Aug. 26.
FCS died because it relied upon immature technologies that became increasingly irrelevant the longer they took to develop, said Dave Johnson, a retired colonel and a senior analyst at the Rand Corp. The GCV delay indicates the service is still trying to get this right. When Defense Secretary Robert Gates cancelled the vehicle component of FCS in
April 2009, the Army quickly forged a new program to buy next-generation combat vehicles, issuing an RfP in 10 months and vowing to start production within seven years.
“There is an old saying in the Pentagon, ‘If you want it bad, you get it bad,’ ” said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Within months, the red team had deemed the effort as too ambitious.
“This vehicle had too many performance requirements and too many capabilities to make it an affordable and readily fielded system,” Lexington Institute analyst Loren Thompson said.
Analysts said the Army’s delay amounted to an admission that service leaders recognized their mistakes and are moving to correct them early on. The service is “really serious about getting this into the realm of, not the possible, but the likely in the timeframe they’re looking at,” Johnson said. Krepinevich agreed.
“A few months’ delay in the program now could reap great benefits down the road,” he said.
But others said the Army’s inability to articulate its future operational needs is already weakening policymakers’ confidence and putting funding at risk. When Gates ordered up a replacement for the FCS vehicle program last year, he indicated that a new program should adhere as closely as possible to the FCS vehicles’ fielding schedule. But he also said that “because of its size and importance, we must get the acquisition right, even at the cost of delay.” The vehicle component of FCS was valued at $87bn. “The danger you always run when a program is canceled is that if you don’t explain quickly how you’re going to reapply the money to meet the mission needs, it will be taken away and spent someplace else,” Thompson said.
One source who attended an Army industry day last fall said he wondered whether GCV was a “conceptual Kabuki dance” meant to placate Gates until he retires, and then allow the Army