The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report Wednesday that drove a stake into the Army’s argument for spending $28.8 billion to build and develop the Ground Combat Vehicle to replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle fleet.
Army leaders have listed the Ground Combat Vehicle as their top vehicle modernization priority above the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Humvee replacement program. However, in a report that compared the GCV to alternate replacement vehicles, the CBO consistently made a case against the GCV.
The CBO compared the GCV to an upgarded Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), the Israeli Namer Armored Personnel Carrier, the German Puma IFV, and the current Bradley IFV. The authors of the report said the GCV is at least twice the cost of the Puma or an upgraded Bradley, and both are more deadly in combat.
Army officials have long feared the service would struggle to convince Congress to develop a vehicle that seemed quite similar to many armored personnel carriers around the world. Selling the program has been made even harder with sequestration and the forthcoming budget cuts the Army must absorb.
The service plans to spend $28.8 billion to develop and build 1,748 GCVs between 2014 and 2030, according to the CBO report. Despite that expenditure, the Puma and the upgraded Bradley would provide the Army a better vehicle while also saving it $14.8 billion and $19.8 billion respectively.
“The Puma would be the most capable of the vehicles, and both it and the upgraded Bradley IFV would be significantlyvmore capable than the GCV,” according to the report.
Army leaders would even be more wise to buy the Namer. Although it wouldn’t perform as well as a GCV on paper, the Namer could still carry the required nine passengers and cost $9 billion less.
Keeping a squad of nine soldiers in one personnel carrier has been one of the Army’s top priorities for the program. An upgraded Bradley could only carry seven. However, and upgraded Bradley IFV “would be more lethal than the GCV against enemy forces and would probably allow soldiers and vehicles to survive combat at about the same rates as would the GCV,” the report stated.
The CBO went as far to say that keeping the Bradley in its present state would be a better choice than the GCV because it could use the $24 billion in saved funding on other programs. Of course, Army commanders often refused to take the Bradley outside the wire in Iraq because the commanders didn’t trust them in combat.
To compare the alternative vehicles against the GCV, CBO used multiple factors to include the “protection of soldiers and survivability of the vehicle in combat; lethality; mobility to and around the battlefield; and passenger capacity.” The CBO is an independent agency that provides budgetary and economic reports for Congressmen and their staffs.
This is not the only CBO report that has poked holes in the Army’s case for the GCV program. CBO analysts had earlier estimated that the GCV would weigh 84 tons, making it heavier than the M1 Abrams tank and twice the weight of the Bradley.
Army acquisition officials have already awarded a pair of $400 million Technology Development contracts to General Dynamics and BAE Systems. The service had made plans to choose a company to build the Bradley replacement in 2019.