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Army Cancels High-Tech Combat Vehicle Project

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel // Carolyn Kaster/AP

This story has been updated with Army comment.

The Army has decided to cancel a high-tech ground combat vehicle project that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost $29 billion, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a Pentagon press briefing.

Hagel, in a preview Monday of the Defense Department’s 2015 budget request slated for release next Tuesday, said he “accepted the Army's recommendation to terminate the current ground combat vehicle program and redirect the funds toward developing a next-generation platform.

"I have asked the leadership of the Army and the Marine Corps to deliver new, realistic visions for a vehicle modernization by the end of this fiscal year,” he said.

The Army planned to buy more than 1,800 GCVs capable of transporting a nine-person squad, with the blast protection of mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles developed and deployed quickly for use in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In August 2011, the Army awarded GCV technology development contracts to BAE Systems and General Dynamics Land Systems, with values of $449.9 million and $439.7 million respectively.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Donald Peters on Tuesday said the GVC program "will conclude upon completion of the technology development phase, expected in 2014" and will not be developed further. "A new Infantry Fighting Vehicle remains a key requirement for the Army," he added.

The Army envisioned GCV stuffed with built-in command-and-control systems as well as optical and radar sensors that can provide a 360-degree field of view to the crew. This would have included software defined radios, the Joint Battle Command-Platform that racks and displays friendly and hostile forces on the battlefield, and an onboard computer system and displays.

Hagel said the 2015 budget will focus on maintaining a technology edge paid for in part by a reduction in troop strength, including cutting the Army to between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers, down from its current size of 520,000, and a renewed focus on operations in Asia and the Pacific.

“We chose further reductions in troop strength and force structure in every military service -- active and reserve -- in order to sustain our readiness and technological superiority and to protect critical capabilities like special operations forces and cyber resources,” Hagel said, without providing many of details that will be  in the formal budget proposal next week.

An emphasis on technological superiority – and the Asia-Pacific focus – means the Navy needs to examine whether its small, Littoral Combat Ships manufactured in two classes by Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics can survive in operations against well-equipped Asia-Pacific forces, Hagel said.

“The LCS was designed to perform certain missions -- such as mine sweeping and antisubmarine warfare -- in a relatively permissive environment. But we need to closely examine whether the LCS has the independent protection and firepower to operate and survive against a more advanced military adversary and emerging new technologies, especially in the Asia Pacific,” Hagel said.

J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, said in his annual report to Congress in January that “LCS is not expected to be survivable in high-intensity combat because its design requirements do not require the inclusion of survivability features necessary to conduct sustained combat operations in a major conflict as expected for the Navy’s other surface combatants.”

The Navy had planned to buy 52 LCS  estimated by the Government Accountability Office in July 2013 to cost just under $500 million per ship, or close to double projections made in 2006. Based on the GAO estimates, the total cost of 52 LCS works out to $26 billion.

Hagel said “no new contract negotiations beyond 32 [LCS] ships will go forward.” He directed the Navy to “submit alternative proposals to procure a capable and lethal small surface combatant, generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate.”

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