Defense announces new modernization program in wake of FCS

Plan will incorporate network technologies developed for troubled weapons program.

Ashton Carter, Defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, issued an acquisition memorandum on Tuesday, announcing the Army's new modernization program, which will focus on developing and fielding a battlefield network and unmanned air and ground vehicles.

The modernization plan, in development since earlier this year

when the Defense Department canceled the ground vehicle portion of its Future Combat Systems program, will incorporate technologies developed for the FCS network.

The Army should harvest its investment the Future Combat Systems program, where it has poured $18 billion into research and development since 2003, to reap the network and software innovations with the "highest potential payoff in terms of new military capability" the House Armed Services Committee said in a June report on the 2010 Defense authorization bill.

The Army views these network technologies as a critical component of its new strategy. A ubiquitous and secure battlefield wireless network "could lead to dramatic increases in the combat capability of all Army forces," the committee report said.

But the battlefield network also has "the greatest risk of additional cost overruns if not scoped and managed," the report added, citing problems with development and fielding of the Joint Tactical Radio, which will provide a software-based communication system for combat units.

In 2003, the Army estimated FCS would require developers to write 33 million lines of code, which at the time made it the most software-intensive acquisition in Defense Department history. In 2008, that estimate jumped to more than 95 million lines of code, and now it has grown to more than 114 million,

Paul Francis, managing director for acquisition and sourcing management at the Government Accountability Office told the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee in June.

Francis said the Army's approach to managing the software effort was impaired by late and changing requirements.

As the Army converts the FCS network and software to its modernization project it should create a program that fields new network capabilities in detailed increments, each of which has realistic schedules, cost estimates and requirements, the House Armed Services Committee report said.

While developing the FCS network, the Army continued to build and deploy its Warfighter Information Network-Tactical for current conflicts. But the service's new strategy should include "one network program, not two or more," the House Armed Services Committee said.

The committee also expressed concern that the Army might use older data communications equipment instead of JTRS radios as it spins off FCS network technology to operational units during the next several years.

But Army spokesman Paul Mehney said the Army will equip Infantry Brigade Combat Teams with JTRS ground mobile radios being tested at Fort Bliss, Texas, adding that the service already has adopted an incremental development and fielding approach to the network.

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