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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) Program: Background and Issues for Congress

Andrew Feickert
Specialist in Military Ground Forces

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. On January 16, 2013, the Department of Defense (DOD) initiated a series of major GCV program changes which, while slipping the program schedule to the right and going to a single competitor during Engineering and Manufacturing Development, could save over $ 4 billion from FY2014 to FY2019.

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 SAICBoeing protest. While some might consider this a setback, it can also be viewed as an endorsement of the GCV program by the DOD. The FY2013 budget request for the GCV was $639.874 million for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E), reflecting a oneyear 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. 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. DOD’s January 16, 2013, GCV program changes might also have long-term overall program cost considerations as a result of “stretching out the program” as well as “less than efficient buy size.”

Date of Report: January 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41597
Price: $29.95

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