Comments on US Army Future Combat System (FCS)

by reader ilsm

The good and the bad (not ugly) analysis of the radically restructured US Army Future Combat System (FCS) if offered by GAO 09-793T:

The testimony covers the lessons from the “restructure” of the US Army’s Boeing (Lead System Integrator, LSI, Bush administration non-ovation) FCS.

The report lists “Good” things to do again, but offers no justification for the funds spent pursuing a super weapon technological solution to an arcane set of problems: “Holistic vision of the future force/ Focus on leveraging capabilities through an information (holistic) network”.

Another goal is “Integrating a common vehicle platform, standardizing support and linking all elements in a networked self reporting information infrastructure giving commanders insight into location and conditions of individuals, vehicles and maneuver units.” This has been a goal of commanders since Xerxes, which is to have a picture of operations and threats in the “battlespace” and is something hotly pursued for air and sea battles as well. What is so innovative about this?

“Government insight into subcontractor selection and management.” Here the GAO thinks it is good for the Army to do what it hired the LSI to do. I do not think this is any better than “trust but verify”, which is a contract form largely unused called cost plus contracting with the to terminate a loser before too much money is lost.

“Establishment of organizations to train with and evaluate technologies to be spun out to current forces”. This is an endorsement of the Louisiana maneuvers of 1940. Some technologists believe, wrongly, that you should build a system, then find a use for it. That is hoping and wishing some future adversary wants to fight the way you wish. That was okay in Western Europe in 1939 because all sides had agreed to fight WW I over, but the future may not have so many hard headed militarists who view war as a joust.

All the good is not so good, nor suggests much to be repeated.

Next is the bad, and a common observation seen in the 60’s through today:
“Not executable within reasonable bounds of technical, engineering, time, or financial resources, “. The LSI and the Army did not know what they could do for the money. This supports other GAO observations about having knowledge before spending the money. This is common in each GAO set of findings. The program team says they can name the song in 4 notes and end up needing the whole chorus.(metaphore, of course)

“Technology and management immature and unable to meet DOD’s own standards for technology and design,” As above “undue optimism” of the technology and the integration into a “workable” solution.

“Weights and software code grew, key network systems were delayed, and technologies took longer to mature,” Resulted from technological optimism.

“By 2009, it was still not known that the FCS concept would work. Oversight has been extremely challenging, given the program’s vast scope (huge number of bucks better spent elsewhere) and the innovative, but close, partner-like relationship between the Army and the LSI” (Too close, too “success” oriented; how much money had to be sent after bad before failure was too expensive to hide?)

Oversight has been extremely challenging is code(“Success oriented”)for ‘don’t tell the bad news until it cannot be avoided, and raising the alarm proved that both the LSI and the Army were not doing the job!

These sets of statements of “good and bad” apply to most DoD acquisitions. Nothing changes, but new program people arrive who forget the past and move ahead to unknown demands on an ever optimistic industry, (which can do anything as long as time and money are not limited).

The point missed is that the only justification for this excursion into trying to run an impossible development is that FCS is needed for “modernization”. Good thing, the US would have been in trouble if the FCS were really needed to provide the common defense.

For the money I might as well whittle beaks……………..

But my dividend structure is less important than Boeing’s.
by reader ilsm (lightly edited for readability)