The Government Accountability Office added another $21 billion to the price tag of the Army's Future Combat Systems program, which currently stands at $159 billion, in a report released on Thursday. The Army fired back in press call on Friday with a squad of two and three star generals.
FCS, the Army's key modernization program to link 14 manned and unmanned systems and sensors on the battlefield with a sophisticated satellite and radio networks, has seen its price tag almost double from its original estimate of $92 billion. Fielding for the systems is slated to run from 2015 to 2030.
GAO said it came up with the $21 billion increase - which would put the total cost of the program at the sticker-shocking price of $180 billion - from internal Army estimates of what would take to "spin out" FCS technologies such as robots and unmanned aerial vehicles to combat units before 2015.
Lt. Gen N. Ross Thompson III , military deputy assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, sounded flabbergasted with GAO's estimate. "I don't know where they came up with the figure," he said. "I don't know where it came from."
Thompson added that he "liked data and facts" as much anyone, but said he gets frustrated when what he views as unsupported data becomes reported as truth.
GAO also slapped the Army for using modeling and simulation rather than live exercises to test and prove the multiple FCS technologies, including critical networking components. Thompson said GAO's assertion did not take into account a slew of live FCS tests, which he said number more than 200 this year and more than 175 last year.
Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, deputy commanding general for futures and director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said the Army also has proven FCS systems such as the command post of the future, the Joint Tactical Radio System radios, robots, and unmanned aerial vehicles on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
Maj. Gen. James Terry, director of the future force integration directorate, said the Army has ongoing exercises with FCS gear at Ft. Bliss, Texas, and said anyone who wants to get the real story on FCS should visit Ft Bliss rather than reading GAO reports.
I asked Terry if I could wander down there with the What's Brewin' mobile unit next week and he said yes. I can hardly wait. It's more fun to hang with grunts than read GAO reports.