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Congress hears Army won't field ineffective gear

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 12, 2010) -- There's still room for improvement with equipment that will be fielded to Soldiers as part of enhanced brigade combat team modernization, but equipment will not go to the field if it is ineffective.

Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, told members of the House Armed Service Committee air and land forces subcommittee, March 10, that the Army wants to get technology to the Soldiers as fast as possible, but realizes some equipment that makes up Increment 1 isn't as ready as other equipment.

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"We know that within those packages ... each item may not be as mature as the other items," Phillips said. "We are not going to field anything that is not suitable, effective, on the field of battle for our Soldiers."

The Army recently got approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to proceed with Low Rate Initial Production on one set of equipment. Increment 1 systems include the Network Integration Kit, the Class I Unmanned Aerial System, the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, Urban-Unattended Ground Sensors, and Tactical-Unattended Ground Sensors.

Issues with some Increment 1 equipment include noise and sensor weight, for instance.

"Some of them are about almost twice the weight they should be," Phillips said of sensors in the package. He also said that the Class 1 UAV has issues with noise. "It's a noisy system that we need to reduce the decibels on the field of battle."

But Philips said Soldiers like the capability the equipment provides.

"The current Class 1 UAV weighs about 17 pounds, it provides a hover-stare capability," he said. "Soldiers like this system, it provides great intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability, great situational awareness of what's happening on the battlefield."

The Army will conduct more testing on equipment included in Increment 1, before moving ahead with plans to equip a second and third BCT with the equipment. Eventually, a total of nine BCTs are expected to see the Increment 1 set equipment, though Lt. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, deputy chief of staff, G-8, said fielding of that technology won't happen unless it is ready.

"We think we are on a path to demonstrate those capabilities -- that we can accomplish those capabilities. I want to ensure this committee that if the capabilities do not measure up, we will not go forward with those capabilities and we will not put them in the hands of our Soldiers," he said.

Lennox and Philips also discussed Army efforts to address the hazards of improvised explosive devices in theater, reducing the weight of equipment on Soldiers, further development of the M-4 Carbine and efforts to find a follow-on carbine.

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