In April 2009, then-Secretary of Defense Gates announced he intended to significantly restructure the Army’s Future Combat System (FCS) program. The FCS was a multiyear, multibillion dollar program that had been underway since 2000 and was at the heart of the Army’s transformation efforts. In lieu of the cancelled FCS manned ground vehicle (MGV), the Army was directed to develop a ground combat vehicle (GCV) that would be relevant across the entire spectrum of Army operations and would incorporate combat lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Army reissued a request for proposal (RFP) for the GCV on November 30, 2010 and plans to begin fielding the GCV by 2015-2017. On August 17, 2011, the GCV program was approved to enter the Technology Development Phase of the acquisition process and a day later, the Army awarded two technology development contracts: $439.7 million to the General Dynamics-led team and a second contract for $449.9 million to the BAE Systems-Northrop Grumman team.
Starting in May and running through June 2012, the Army tested a number of foreign candidates during a Network Integration Exercise. This test informed the Army’s Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), which is a requirement before the GCV program can progress to the next developmental phase. The AoA reportedly found no suitable existing, less expensive combat vehicles that could meet the Army’s GCV requirements. In addition, the Army is said to be considering including an active protection system (APS)—perhaps the Israeli Trophy system—for inclusion on the GCV, but past experiences in terms of technical feasibility and cost will likely play a factor in any decision to initially field the GCV with an APS capability.
The Administration’s January 26, 2012, Major Budget Decision Briefing not only introduced a new Asia-Pacific strategic focus, but also delayed the GCV program for a year due to the SAIC Boeing protest. While some might consider this a setback, it can also be viewed as an endorsement of the GCV program by the Department of Defense (DOD). The FY2013 budget request for the GCV was $639.874 million for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E), reflecting a one-year delay in the program and a $1.7 billion program cut. The FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act fully funds the Administration’s FY2013 GCV Budget Request. Potential issues for Congress include the role and need for the GCV in a downsized Army that will likely have fewer armored brigade combat teams (ABCTs).
The Administration’s announcement of a strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region presents questions as to the necessity for ABCTs and, by association, the GCV. GCV affordability also remains a key consideration for Congress. The Army contends that the average unit production cost for the GCV will be between $9 million and $10.5 million. The Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) estimates that the average unit production cost will be in the $16 million to $17 million range, meaning the Army would need an additional $7.2 billion to acquire 1,874 GCVs.
A November 2012 Congressional Budget Office report on the GCV provides a range of GCV technical issues for congressional consideration. A report suggests DOD is considering significant budget cuts in the GCV program from FY2014 to FY2018, which could have a major impact on the GCV program. This report will be updated.
Click here for the full report (19 PDF pages) on the FAS website.