Home' Army Acquisition Logistics and Technology Magazine : Army ALT January-March 2012 Contents 146 Army AL&T Magazine
the Army decided its main focus should
be fighting the Red Army in Europe.
The service organized its modernization
plans around five new systems---Abrams,
Bradley, Apache, Black Hawk, and
Patriot---and then stuck with them across
multiple administrations despite the con-
stant attacks of critics.
It helped that there was no big war going
on to distract planners and that the Rea-
gan administration threw money at the
Pentagon the same way that George W.
Bush's White House one day would, but
the Army could easily have given in to
changing fashions as the Cold War waned.
It didn't, though; it stuck with the "Big
Five," which still constitute the core of its
conventional warfighting capability.
But that was the last time the Army suc-
cessfully implemented a broadly based
modernization agenda. After the 1990s,
service plans were repeatedly confounded
by changing threats and requirements.
The first big setbacks came during the
early years of George W. Bush's presiden-
tial tenure, when a future self-propelled
howitzer called Crusader and then a
next-generation armed reconnaissance
helicopter called Comanche were both
killed. Crusader was laid low by a $25
million unit cost and the feeling that it
was too heavy to deploy quickly---a big
issue in the aftermath of the latest Balkan
war. Comanche was terminated because,
although it was much more futuristic, it
was way off schedule and over budget.
By the time Comanche---sometimes
described in Army circles as the "quar-
terback of the digital battlefield"---was
killed in 2004, the service had moved on
to an unrestrained embrace of the infor-
mation revolution. The centerpiece of the
new modernization agenda was called the
Future Combat System, a family of 18 air
and ground vehicles (both manned and
unmanned) supported by a wireless battle-
field network of unprecedented capacity.
The Future Combat System was supposed
to address a slew of operational chal-
lenges the Army faced, such as the need
for greater agility and survivability, by
collecting and disseminating vital infor-
mation around the battlefield at the speed
of light. Unfortunately, it reflected the
same hubris that infected other Bush-era
networking initiatives such as the Transfor-
mational Communications Satellite and
the Joint Tactical Radio System. Secretary
of Defense Robert M. Gates canceled it in
2009, mainly over concerns that it failed
to provide adequate force protection in its
bid to develop more agile vehicles.
There were so many things wrong with
the Future Combat System in retrospect
that it's amazing the program stayed on
track as long as it did. First, its concept of
operations was being falsified on a daily
basis by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Second, its success depended on pulling
off the grandest network integration proj-
ect in human history. Third, the price tag
was correspondingly imposing, requir-
ing hundreds of billions of dollars over a
period far exceeding the attention span of
the political system.
But that was only the biggest acquisi-
tion failure of the new millennium. The
Army also managed to cancel both of its
next-generation air defense weapons when
threats failed to evolve as expected; its
planned successor to Crusader; its planned
successor to Comanche; and a replacement
of Cold War signals intelligence planes.
Regrettably, each program expended sub-
stantial funds before being killed.
SIGNS OF LEARNING
Since there is no cash award associated
with being the millionth person to remind
Army leaders of how much money they
wasted over the past 10 years on programs
that were subsequently canceled, I will
simply observe that the service finally
Thompson sees the Army learning from past lessons in modernization planning, as witnessed in
the ongoing series of Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs). Pictured are Soldiers from the 2nd
Brigade, 1st Armored Division at a company outpost Nov. 2, 2011, during the Army s second
Network Integration Evaluation, NIE 12.1, at White Sands Missile Range, NM, and Fort Bliss, TX.
The NIEs are helping bring greater network connectivity to the company level so that Soldiers can
communicate through voice, data, images, and video, even in challenging terrain. (Photo by Claire
Schwerin, Program Executive Office Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical.)
MODERNIZATION: WHERE THE ARMY WENT WRONG
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