Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Aug. 1 outlined two options: One keeps more troops and cuts such modernization programs as GCV, above. The other cuts more soldiers to preserve high-end capabilities. (BAE Systems-Northrop Grumman)
The Ground Combat Vehicle could be delayed, according to the Army’s top officer.
The announcement of deep defense cuts on the horizon could turn the potential delay into an outright cancellation.
But don’t expect the Army to give up its next-generation combat vehicle without a fight.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on July 29 said the service “might have to delay [GCV] because of budget cuts, but I don’t know. We haven’t made the decision yet. But we have to review it.”
Sequestration cuts are causing a two- to three-year gap with modernization, the chief explained.
“We’re going to have to look very hard at all of our modernization programs,” he said. “So I’m very concerned.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Aug. 1 said far more cuts are coming if sequestration continues. He outlined two basic options: One would keep more troops by cutting modernization programs such as GCV, and the other would cut more soldiers to preserve those high-end capabilities and prevent “a decadelong modernization holiday,” in which troops could find equipment and weapons “less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries.”
Odierno said he is committed to finding the right balance of soldiers, readiness and modernization. And he is committed to putting them in the GCV.
“We need the Ground Combat Vehicle. We have to have it,” he said. “The Bradley Fighting Vehicle just didn’t perform the way we wanted it to in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Our soldiers were vulnerable and they lacked mobility. We need something that’s better than that,” Odierno continued. “Ground Combat Vehicle is what we need in order to do that, based on some of the threats we see potentially in the future. The issue is, how quickly are we going to be able to get there now because of budget cuts?”
There are obstacles to overcome.
A Congressional Budget Office report in April said the best strategy would be to replace the $29 billion program with Germany’s Puma or an upgraded Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. Both would be “significantly more capable than the GCV,” and Pumas would cost $14 billion less, while upgraded Bradleys would save $9 billion, the report said.
Army leaders and the companies competing to build the GCV — BAE Systems Land & Armaments and General Dynamics Land Systems — dispute the CBO’s findings. They said the data is wrong.
Neither the Puma nor the Bradley can carry an entire squad. The German armored vehicle carries six soldiers, which means the Army would have to buy five Pumas for every four Bradleys it replaced. The Bradley carries seven soldiers. Nine soldiers comprise an Army squad.
The CBO report also assumed no upgrades or modifications to the vehicles, said one Army official. This would put network capabilities at risk. And an upgraded Bradley would require a massive re-engineering effort that would essentially produce a new vehicle.
Another point of contention comes from the House Armed Services Committee. In reports leading up to passage of its version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, the HASC said the lack of an Active Protection System will “soon create a critical capability gap for Army combat vehicles due to the rapid proliferation of advanced anti-tank guided missiles and next-generation rocket propelled grenades.”
The Army was “encouraged” to establish and fund a program in fiscal 2015.
“We won’t include an APS solution for GCV. It’s just too expensive,” said Lt. Gen. William Phillips, military deputy to the Army’s acquisition executive. “It will drive the cost of the vehicle to become unaffordable. An APS solution adds significant cost and, depending on what solution you get, it adds significant weight.”
Though included in the reports, the congressional language was not included in the House version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. So, the Army is likely to win the APS battle.
Congress intends to prohibit funding for the next stage of GCV development until the Army secretary can convince lawmakers that the best strategy is to select one contractor at the beginning of the engineering, manufacturing and development phase. Despite questions surrounding GCV and the lack of funding faced by the Army, the mark said the HASC “supports the Army’s need to modernize its ground forces equipment,” and said GCV “will eventually replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.”