House panel poised to cut nearly $1B in Army programs

A key House Armed Services subcommittee plans to vote Thursday on a proposal to slash $891 million from the Army's budget for several technologies that had been salvaged from the canceled Future Combat Systems program.

The so-called Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which includes small unmanned air and ground vehicles and other systems that struggled through testing last fall, is emerging as one of the biggest targets for cuts in the House's version of the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill.

In his mark, Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., will propose cutting all $682.7 million requested for procurement and another $208.3 million in research and development from the Obama administration's $2.3 billion total request for the EIBCT, according to summary information provided to members in advance of Thursday's markup.

"The only independent test data available from September 2009 showed none of the EIBCT items meeting reliability requirements, and all items had serious performance shortfalls," the summary says.

In addition to unmanned vehicles, EIBCT technologies also include a network integration kit and unattended ground sensors, as well as a Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System that Army leaders want to cancel. The NLOS-LS, a vehicle-mounted missile launch system the Army hoped to deploy quickly to modernize its combat brigades, was the most expensive item in the EIBCT.

Smith's mark cuts $431.8 million requested for Army procurement and research and development for the launch system. But it transfers $75 million to the Navy to complete development of the launch system for the Littoral Combat Ship, which the Navy had planned to equip with the NLOS-LS, a product of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co.

The subcommittee also is directing the Army secretary to provide a report to the congressional defense committees by Feb. 1 on how it can salvage some of the launch system's technology developed with the $1 billion invested in NLOS-LS.

Meanwhile, Smith's mark zeroes out $44.2 million requested to buy the Class I unmanned aerial vehicle, built by Honeywell Aerospace, because tests indicate it is "too loud and has too short a range to be tactically useful in many operations," according to the summary.

In January, lawmakers received a Pentagon report saying the UAV could be seen four kilometers away and heard two kilometers away during tests last year, making it a poor platform for stealthy reconnaissance and surveillance work.

Smith's mark also nixes $20.1 million requested to procure small unmanned ground vehicles produced by iRobot Corp. because they are overweight and have limited utility at night because of the limitations of its sensors.

In addition, the mark eliminates $176.6 million requested to procure the network integration kits, citing significant performance, reliability and operational concept problems. Likewise, Smith's panel plans to strip all $29.7 million to buy unattended ground sensors because they are "difficult to emplace, fell well below reliability requirements, and contributed 'little to unit situational awareness'," the summary states.

Separately, the mark authorizes the full $934.4 million request for Ground Combat Vehicle research and development. The GCVs will replace the family of manned ground vehicles that had been envisioned.

But the mark includes language expressing concern about the Army's requirements for the vehicles, which the subcommittee believes "are extremely ambitious in some areas."

The Army has said it wants the GCV to be as lethal as the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, while also being as survivable as the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The service also wants it to be as mobile as the Army's family of wheeled Stryker vehicles.

"The committee is concerned that, once again, the Army may be asking the defense industry to build a 'gold plated' vehicle that may take longer to develop than planned and prove to be extremely expensive to procure," says the summary, which presumes the full Armed Services Committee will approve the language.

Smith's subcommittee will recommend in report language that the Army review the requirements for the vehicle and separate "needs" from "wants" and also consider whether it can upgrade current vehicles to get a vehicle in the hands of troops faster than the current seven-year timeline.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed impatience with the Army's GCV plan, saying he has spoken with Army leaders about his desire to "carve some time off of that seven years."

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