Army Defends GCV, Keeps Lakota Stateside

Leadership continued to try to protect its top vehicle modernization priority as Congress grilled them on the cost and need of a Bradley replacement.

U.S. Army officials had to defend the high-priority Ground Combat Vehicle Wednesday as lawmakers continue to scrutinize every program in the Army’s budget.

The service recently decided to delay the effort to replace the Bradley fighting vehicle by adding another six months to the GCV program’s engineering, manufacturing and development phase. The Army had already announced a six-month delay to the technology development phase in January.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., said he wanted to know if the Army is taking the right steps to ensure that the costly program will be relevant far into the future.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh told lawmakers that the Army is “really trying to go to school on our past mistakes” to avoid future missteps.

“We started out on the wrong foot when we put out a [request for proposal] that contained about 1000 must-have requirements,” he said, explaining how the service was reaching for too far on an effort that was too dependent on immature technologies.

Program officials have now trimmed the tier-one requirements down to about 137, McHugh said.

General Dynamics Corp., based in Falls Church, Virginia, and the U.S. subsidiary of London-based BAE Systems PLC have received contracts valued at about $450 million apiece to develop the GCV systems.

Army officials are expected to down-select in about six months to a single vendor in the Milestone B portion of the program, a decision that will save the Army $2.5 billion, McHugh said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told lawmakers that he wasn’t sure he even supported the GCV effort when he took over as chief of staff.

Looking at the Bradley’s performance in Iraq convinced him.

“The Bradley did not perform well in Iraq,” he said. “It did not protect our soldiers, it did not carry a full squad and we cannot put into the Bradley the IT capabilities that we want in order to pass information.”

Other lawmakers wanted Army officials to explain why the 249 UH-72 Lakota helicopters in use with the National Guard is not being considered for a possible armed-aerial scout role in the active force.

The Lakota has performed tremendously, Odierno said, but it’s designed for specific missions such as homeland defense rather than the harsh conditions of the battlefield.

The Army decided to buy the Lakota because it had to deploy most of its UH-60 Black Hawks to the warzone, he said.

The Lakota is “not an aircraft we can deploy operationally,” Odierno said.