U.S. Army Vehicles Meet Fiscal Reality

When the U.S. Army released its fis­cal 2011 Tac­ti­cal Wheeled Vehi­cle Strat­e­gy in Jan­u­ary, the ser­vice was laud­ed for a for­ward-look­ing approach in defin­ing and address­ing needs that also laid plans to reduce its fleet of 260,000 trucks 15% by 2017. The Army is “at a strate­gic cross­roads,” Maj. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, direc­tor of force devel­op­ment, said at the time, since it “can­not afford to sus­tain and mod­ern­ize a fleet of the cur­rent size, giv­en future bud­get expec­ta­tions.”

This arti­cle is pub­lished with kind per­mis­sion of “Avi­a­tion Week & Space Tech­nol­o­gy


But those plans have since been mugged by bud­get real­i­ties. As it stands, the Pen­ta­gon is set to absorb at least $350 bil­lion in cuts over the next decade, with deep­er reduc­tions loom­ing as Con­gress seeks an addi­tion­al $1.2 tril­lion in gov­ern­ment cuts. 

Giv­en all the unknowns in the bud­get sit­u­a­tion, Army lead­ers are mov­ing for­ward with three com­bat vehi­cle programs—two wheeled and one tracked. How many will actu­al­ly make it to the fleet remains to be seen, though the ser­vice main­tains that all three—the Joint Light Tac­ti­cal Vehi­cle (JLTV), the (tracked) Ground Com­bat Vehi­cle (GCV), and the Humvee recap pro­gram (DTI June, p. 41)—are doable. 

Oth­ers aren’t so sure. Stephen Daggett of the Con­gres­sion­al Research Ser­vice recent­ly told DTI that he thinks “the Army is going to give up the Ground Com­bat Vehi­cle and JLTV” in sub­se­quent bud­gets, rely­ing instead on recapped Humvees, Stryk­ers, M‑ATVs (MRAP All-Ter­rain Vehi­cles) and recapped M‑ATVs.

In August, the Army award­ed almost $900 mil­lion to two teams led by BAE Sys­tems and Gen­er­al Dynam­ics for its GCV pro­gram, a move that appeared to be a big vote of con­fi­dence in the pro­gram. But then came the details. 

In giv­ing the green light to the pro­gram, Pen­ta­gon acqui­si­tion chief Ash­ton Carter instruct­ed the Army to con­duct two analy­ses of alter­na­tives (AOA), which will come on top of the AOA the Army com­plet­ed to ensure that no exist­ing pro­grams per­form the tasks envi­sioned for the GCV. Army Col. Andrew DiMar­co, GCV project man­ag­er, asserts that his office “looked at a vari­ety of plat­forms,” includ­ing the Bradley and the Mine-Resis­tant Ambush-Pro­tect­ed (MRAP) vehi­cle, as well as sev­er­al for­eign pro­grams such as the Puma infantry car­ri­er, made by Germany’s Krauss-Maf­fei Weg­mann and Rhein­metall Land Sys­tems. None had the capa­bil­i­ties that the Army believes it can achieve with a new­ly built vehicle. 

The oth­er stick­ing point in Carter’s mem­o­ran­dum was the issue of dif­fer­ing price esti­mates between the Army and the Pentagon’s Cost Assess­ment and Pro­gram Eval­u­a­tion (CAPE) office. While the Army is stick­ing to its aver­age unit man­u­fac­tur­ing cost range of $9–10.5 mil­lion, and its $11–13 mil­lion esti­mate for aver­age unit pro­duc­tion cost—which includes spare parts—CAPE esti­mates the aver­age unit pro­duc­tion cost to be $16–17 mil­lion, DiMar­co reveals. He calls the dis­crep­an­cy the result of “dif­fer­ent method­olo­gies” in esti­mat­ing costs. 

Asked if there might come a time when the GCV pro­gram is aban­doned because of ris­ing expen­di­tures or bet­ter alter­na­tives, DiMar­co replies that “cer­tain­ly there’s a point where you’re pay­ing mon­ey for a capa­bil­i­ty that might not be any bet­ter than what you have today.” In the next two sets of analy­ses, “we’ll be more focused on look­ing at require­ment trades for afford­abil­i­ty,” he says. 

Over­all, the GCV pro­gram is esti­mat­ed to be worth $40 bil­lion, and the Army wants more than 1,800 GCV infantry car­ri­ers to be field­ed begin­ning in 2017, with each incor­po­rat­ing enough mod­u­lar­i­ty for armor and arma­ment to be swapped out for dif­fer­ent mis­sion sets while deliv­er­ing up to nine infantry­men to the bat­tle­field. Now, $40 bil­lion is noth­ing to take lightly—especially at a time when big con­tracts like this will like­ly be few and far between. The lead­ers of the win­ning teams are BAE Sys­tems, which received a $450 mil­lion con­tract, and Gen­er­al Dynam­ics, which was award­ed $440 mil­lion for work dur­ing the two-year tech­nol­o­gy demon­stra­tion (TD) phase. SAIC sub­mit­ted a vari­a­tion of Puma but was denied a con­tract, even though the Army bud­get­ed mon­ey for up to three TD con­tracts, and sub­se­quent­ly filed a protest in August. A com­pa­ny rep­re­sen­ta­tive tells DTI via email that “we believe the gov­ern­ment relied on eval­u­a­tion cri­te­ria out­side its pub­lished request for pro­pos­als. We also believe sev­er­al aspects of the bid may have been dis­count­ed because of a lack of famil­iar­i­ty with their non-Amer­i­can origins.” 

One thing is cer­tain: the $890 mil­lion invest­ment in GCV devel­op­ment isn’t a guar­an­tee of anything. 

Mean­while, plans for the joint Army/Marine Corps JLTV, which could cost $70 bil­lion, seem to be miss­ing in action. While the pro­gram has been active since 2006, nobody knows how many trucks the Army and Marines want (or if the Marines want any), how much each will cost, or what the final design require­ments will be. Eye­brows were raised ear­li­er this year when the House and Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices com­mit­tees agreed to cut $50 mil­lion from the request­ed $172 mil­lion fis­cal 2012 bud­get for the JLTV, mov­ing that cash to the Humvee recap pro­gram. But that was only the begin­ning. “We’re look­ing to take more mon­ey out,” Col. David Bas­sett, the Army’s project man­ag­er for tac­ti­cal vehi­cles, tells DTI

The way to do that is to push back the award date for the JLTV’s engi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing devel­op­ment (EMD) phase, while short­en­ing that planned four-year phase to accel­er­ate the pro­gram sched­ule. The EMD com­pe­ti­tion should also be open to all bid­ders, not just the teams led by BAE Sys­tems, Lock­heed Mar­tin and Gen­er­al Tac­ti­cal Vehi­cles, a joint ven­ture between Gen­er­al Dynam­ics and AM Gen­er­al, which already won devel­op­ment con­tracts. Bas­sett expects to issue a draft request for pro­pos­als (RFP) this fall. “And, assum­ing that we get approval for the updat­ed pro­gram, we would be look­ing at the spring of next year for the next round of con­tract awards,” he says. 

In the time since the three JLTV indus­try teams start­ed build­ing their trucks in 2008, the program—and the Army’s wheeled vehi­cle fleet—has gone through changes. MRAPs, MATVs and up-armored Humvees have come on line by the thou­sands, and the Stryk­er has become a big part of the Army’s future. Through it all, the JLTV remained an enig­ma. With so many dif­fer­ent armored vehi­cles, and with the GCV and recapped Humvees loom­ing on the hori­zon, will the Army final­ly define the goals—and cost—of the JLTV pro­gram? The RFP slat­ed for this fall is crit­i­cal to the program’s future. 

With GCV and JLTV com­pe­ti­tions well under way, the next box to be ticked off for the Army is the Humvee recap pro­gram. While no RFP has been issued, Bas­sett says a draft will be out in fall, fol­lowed by an indus­try day. 

While a recap of the icon­ic Humvee will give the vehi­cles bet­ter armor, improved sus­pen­sion and oth­er upgrades, it will also extend vehi­cle life into the 2030s—a long haul from its birth in the 1980s. The recap of 50,000–100,000 Army Humvees, and at least 3,400 Marine Corps trucks, has cre­at­ed ten­sion with the JLTV pro­gram, with some won­der­ing if the Pen­ta­gon can afford both pro­grams at a time when bud­gets are shrink­ing. Bas­sett, who man­ages both pro­grams, is quick to say, “we’ve struc­tured these as two mutu­al­ly sup­port­ive pro­grams, where Humvee recap is intend­ed to demon­strate for the Army exact­ly how much improve­ment they can gain in their light fleet through an upgrade of the truck they have, at a cost that the Army would be will­ing to invest.” 

Bas­sett stress­es that the recap must “be cheap enough where there’s no con­fu­sion in the strat­e­gy between the role of a Humvee recap and the role of a JLTV. There is clear­ly going to be a dif­fer­ence between the Humvee and JLTV.” In oth­er words, while the Army is look­ing for the recap pro­gram to use exist­ing tech­nolo­gies to refit the fleet, it is look­ing to JLTV for new com­mu­ni­ca­tion and weapon sys­tems and armor solu­tions that will make it a leap-ahead truck. Still, while the Army has estab­lished a base price of $180,000 for each recapped Humvee, after five years of devel­op­ment, there’s still no hard cost pro­jec­tion for the JLTV, some­thing Bas­sett chalks up to chang­ing require­ments, threats and evolv­ing technology. 

Despite con­tract awards and reas­sur­ing words, the Army’s com­bat vehi­cle pro­gram is in flux. Once Con­gress makes its deci­sion lat­er this year, the Army’s ground vehi­cle road map will come into sharp­er focus. 

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