Doing More With Less, Again

kpeters@govexec.com

In the last 10 years, American troops have been deployed overseas for 10 major operations-as many as in the previous 30 years. Of the troops that were sent on those deployments, 70 percent came from the Army. And yet the Army consumes only 24 percent of the Defense budget. Such are the statistics that trip off the tongues of senior Army officials.

"For 24 percent of the budget and one-eighth of the Defense Department's research and development budget, you're getting 70 percent of the people" in military operations, says Army procurement chief Kenneth Oscar. "I think the American people are getting a good bargain out of the Army."

If it were up to Oscar and other senior Army leaders, the Army would get a bigger share of the Pentagon pie. The Army's $9 billion weapons procurement budget is about half of those of the other services.

"We don't have enough money," says Oscar. "We're under stress." Aging equipment has been driving up maintenance costs, making many modernization goals too expensive. "You don't capitalize as much as you could on new technologies. A lot of opportunities are missed," he says.

"We've tried to build the best balanced program we could with the budget we have. We've taken the money we have and I think we have the best mix in the use of that money," Oscar says.

'Digitizing' the Force

The largest portion of the Army's limited procurement request in the Clinton administration's fiscal 1999 budget, about $2.6 billion, would be spent on enhancing command and control capability of tactical units at the brigade level and below. Through extensive experimentation and simulation exercises, the Army is working to "digitize" the force by electronically linking soldiers across units, giving them real-time information about what is happening on the battlefield.

The focus of the digitization strategy is on enhancing the capability of existing systems, rather than on developing new systems. Digitization investments in 1999 would include continued integration and development of the Army Battle Command System, the service's communications backbone, with both sensors and weapons platforms, including the M-1 Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, key aviation platforms such as the Longbow Apache and Kiowa Warrior helicopters, and upgrades to combat training center instrumentation.

"I think the Army's going to look completely different down the road," says Oscar. "You're going to have total situation awareness where you're going to win the information management war. You're going to see where everybody is, all your friendlies, all your enemies. You're going to be able to put firepower anywhere."

The Army anticipates having one fully digitized division by 2000, with the first fully digitized corps completed in 2004. "I have no great concerns with digitization," says Oscar. "It really multiplies your capability."

Also under development is the Army's new howitzer program. Under the 1999 budget request, the Army would spend $311 million for continued development of the Crusader artillery system, formerly called the Advanced Field Artillery System, and the Future Armored Resupply Vehicle-Ammunition (FARV-A) program.

Crusader and FARV-A, which are being developed by the Carlyle Group's United Defense unit, are intended to provide commanders with increased accuracy, rate of fire, survivability, mobility and ammunition handling speed with decreased crew size. They eventually will replace the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer and M992 Field Artillery Ammunition Supply Vehicle.

Oscar disputes critics who say the Crusader is too much like the Paladin, when what the Army really needs is a much faster, lighter field artillery weapon that can be quickly and easily deployed to battlefields.

"It's certainly not yesterday's weapon," he says. "It was pointed out to us glaringly in Desert Storm that our howitzer fleet was inadequate. It couldn't keep up with the force, it didn't have the range or rapidity of firing. One of our weakest areas was artillery.

"What we're trying to do is field a howitzer that will correct that near-term problem but will be here for another 20 or 30 years. We think we have that with the Crusader. It will have much better range, much better survivability, much better firepower. It will shoot faster than other howitzers," Oscar says.

Because the Crusader will have three times the effectiveness of the current howitzer, the Army will need one-third as many in future conflicts, requiring one-third the number of airplanes to lift it to future battlefields, making it more deployable, he says.

The Army is also developing the RAH-66 Comanche armed-reconnaissance helicopter, which it hopes will eventually replace the existing fleet of OH-58 and AH-1 scout and attack helicopters. The budget request includes $368 million for continued testing of two prototype aircraft and development of the T801 engine, composite air vehicle and Mission Equipment Package, which has an advanced electro-optical target acquisition and designation system, aided target recognition and helmet-mounted display.

The Comanche, being developed jointly by Boeing Co. and United Technologies' Sikorsky division, would significantly expand the Army's ability to conduct operations day and night and in poor weather. Low-observable technology would enhance crew survivability as well. Army plans call for fielding the Comanche beginning in 2004, but perpetual procurement funding shortages have repeatedly stalled the program in the past and could do so again.

Oscar is optimistic, however. He says the Comanche is an essential part of the Army's evolution to a smaller, more powerful force. "The Army has very few development programs-we have very little money," says Oscar. "We've taken the money we do have and applied it to our top three priorities-digitizing the battlefield, Comanche and Crusader. We've decided that's the best use of our money, so I don't think [Comanche] is vulnerable at all."

Equipment Upgrades

The Army will continue upgrading its tanks and helicopters under the 1999 budget request. Older M-1 Abrams tanks would be upgraded to the M-1A2 model with improved armor, firepower and digitized communications.

Army plans also include enhancing the fleet of Apache helicopters with Longbow Hellfire fire-and-forget missiles. A portion of the Apache fleet will also be equipped with mast-mounted fire control radar. The 1999 budget request includes $980 million for these programs, including procurement of 2,000 Longbow Hellfire missiles. The Army also plans to purchase 22 UH-60 Blackhawk utility helicopters next year, and another 10 Blackhawks a year through 2003.

Plans to acquire more medium tactical trucks suffered a setback this year when Defense Secretary William Cohen suspended the Army's contract with Houston-based contractor Stewart & Stevenson Services, which assembles the trucks. Defects in the drive train had earlier forced the Army to restrict truck speed to 30 miles per hour after several accidents in which trucks rolled over when traveling at higher speeds.

The contractor was selected in 1991 for the $15 billion Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles program to provide 48,000 trucks over 15 years. The first phase of the contract, a $1.5 billion deal for 11,000 trucks, was to be completed this year. Cohen's action could postpone the decision on the second phase of the contract until next year.

"Secretary Cohen does not think it's a good idea to spend so much money on trucks that go only 30 miles an hour," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon told reporters.

The truck program is critical to maintaining Army readiness, because the service is currently using some trucks that are over 30 years old. While Stewart & Stevenson works to fix the problem, the Pentagon will consider other suppliers for the trucks in the future.

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