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29 Jun 17. Senate zeros out funding for US Army’s battlefield network. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its fiscal year 2018 policy bill, has zeroed out funding for the U.S. Army’s battlefield network. But the House Armed Services Committee is taking the opposite tack, by approving an amendment in its version of the policy bill that asks the Army to consider speeding up the fielding of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2, or WIN-T Inc. 2. While the Senate Armed Services Committee’s bill language has yet to be released, a summary states that it is reducing Army networking programs to include WIN-T by $448m. The service’s FY18 budget request funds WIN-T procurement at $420.5m.
Senate aides in a background briefing with reporters Thursday said findings from a congressionally mandated study on WIN-T were “concerning,” adding, “the view of the committee was that with all of this uncertainty with a pretty damning report about how the program is doing, the view was not to put money into the program this year while the [Army] chief [of Staff] thinks about possibly restructuring and how he wants to proceed forward with it.”
On the other side of Capitol Hill, Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin submitted an amendment to the HASC’s FY18 policy bill approved Wednesday that would require the Army to submit a report no later than Jan. 30, 2018, on options for accelerating procurement and fielding of WIN-T Inc. 2. The report would require an estimate of funding needed to field the system to 30 brigade combat teams or equivalent units from FY18 through FY22.
The report would also include a plan to field WIN-T Inc. 2 to all armored brigade combat teams to include armored multipurpose vehicles as well as a plan for integrating it onto the Stryker combat vehicle. A list of potential upgrades for WIN-T should also be provided, the amendment states, to include size, weight, complexity and cost improvements.
House authorizers also want options for fielding an expeditionary command post with WIN-T integrated and upgrade plans for WIN-T Inc. 1 systems to be configured into WIN-T Inc. 2 systems.
House lawmakers signaled their desire to boost the program in a letter in April signed by 178 members encouraging a new fielding approach that would fund the procurement of six brigade sets of WIN-T over the next five years. WIN-T Inc. 2 has come under fire in recent Pentagon test and evaluation reports and was blasted by several senators as being ineffective and wasteful during a May SASC Army budget hearing, a signal that senators were planning to take some kind of legislative action in the upcoming authorization bill. And while it appears a congressional battle may be brewing over WIN-T, how big that battle will be remains to be seen. With House and Senate authorizers divided over WIN-T’s fate, the appropriators still have a say. If Senate appropriators don’t follow suit by nixing WIN-T’s funding in its spending bill, it’s unlikely such a move to decapitate WIN-T would make it into law. And any decisions on WIN-T at the moment seem premature as Milley is finalizing a network strategy after conducting a thorough review of the Army’s battlefield network and communications systems. That strategy is expected any week now, according to Milley’s projections.
“Frankly, my concern is these systems may or may not work in the conditions of combat that I envision in the future with this change of character of warfare,” he said.
The future operational environment, according to the Army chief, is going to involve having to go up against near-peer threats in contested environments that require small units, operating independently from command, to move almost constantly to avoid defeat. The first increment of WIN-T fielded can only function — transmitting voice, video and data — when a unit i