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G-8: Little risk in proceeding with technology

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 16, 2010) -- While in agreement with other government agencies that "plenty of work" is still needed on robotics and sensor equipment to be fielded as "Increment 1 capabilities" to infantry brigade combat teams, the Army disagrees on the way ahead with that program.

"We think that there is probably very little risk in proceeding ahead of time, and we think this way primarily because we have demonstrated in the past that if a system of capability doesn't meet what our Soldiers need, we have willingly taken that off the table," said Lt. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, the Army's deputy chief of staff, G-8, during testimony April 15 before the Senate Armed Services Committee air/land subcommittee.

The general said that in the past, where the Army has found that programs do not meet the needs of Soldiers, those programs have been discontinued. Examples of that include the Class IV unmanned aerial vehicle, and the Multifunction Utility/Logistics Equipment Vehicle, or MULE.

"(They) didn't meet the Army's needs in a cost-benefit way, and we've taken them off," Lennox said. "And we pledge to you we'll do the same thing. If equipment is not ready to put in the hands of Soldiers, we won't put it in the hands of Soldiers."

Despite disagreements with the DoD Director of Operational Test and Evaluation and the Government Accountability Office about how to proceed with procurement of such equipment as the Class 1 UAV, the small unmanned ground vehicle, and unattended ground sensors, the general said the Army agrees with those agencies that work must be done to prepare them for fielding.

"They were shown to have a number of challenges both in size, weight, mean time between failures -- you'll find that we agree with the findings from DOT&E and the GAO in this regard -- that there is plenty of work to be done," Lennox said.

Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, said that with input from GAO and DOT&E, the Army has better understood results of testing of Increment 1 equipment and is working to improve it.

"We are implementing those fixes, and technical testing is ongoing right now out at Fort Bliss," Phillips said. "We are still going though the test-fix-test scenario to make sure we can get these systems right."

Phillips also said the Army wouldn't ask Soldiers to take equipment to theater if it wasn't ready.

"If one of those increments, like the Urban UGS (Unattended Ground Sensors) isn't ready, then we are not going to ask to take that and field that to our Soldiers," Phillips said. "We are going to look for the right solutions."

Lennox also addressed concerns that the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle, now under development, could suffer the same fate as the Manned Ground Vehicle, which was cancelled last year. The general said technologically, what must be put into the Ground Combat Vehicle is already "much more mature" than what was expected of the cancelled Manned Ground Vehicle.

"I think we are farther along technologically, so we won't run into surprises, or as many surprises that would cause cost overruns and delays," he said. "I think additionally, the approach the acquisition team is taking ... the prototyping, the multiple vendors involved, I think that will keep us both innovative and on the right track."

Lennox addressed senators about the broad goals for the Army's modernization plans. The Army's modernization strategy was recently approved by Chief of Staff of the Army George W. Casey Jr.

The goal of that strategy, Lennox said, includes "developing and fielding affordable interoperable mix of the best equipment available to allow our Soldiers and units to succeed in today's fight" and also to win fights in the future that include full-spectrum operations.

That plan for modernization includes buying new capabilities that address current capability gaps, such as creating two new combat aviation brigades, and investing in new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities such as the Sky Warrior and the Shadow aerial vehicle.

The plan also focuses on taking care of equipment the Army already has. One such example is the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior program.

"The helicopter has been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan and ... it is an older aircraft and we are investing now in both cockpit upgrades and sensor and safety measures to keep that aircraft a contributing member of the fleet until 2025," Lennox said.

Also included in taking care of equipment, the general said, is lightening the load on Soldiers, such as the outer tactical vest. There, the Army is attempting to lighten the weight of that safety item for Soldiers.

"(We're) fielding plate carriers that are lighter in weight, but give the Soldiers in eastern Afghanistan in particular, better (ability) to climb the hills and deal with the altitude," Lennox said.

The last aspect of modernization, Lennox said, is meeting the needs of the Army through the Army Force Generation model, or ARFORGEN. That includes equipping active- and reserve-component units the same when they deploy and are doing the same missions.

The general also mentioned the Brigade Combat Team Modernization Strategy, including incorporation of MRAPs and M-ATVs into the Army fleet, incremental improvements to the Army network, fielding of capability packages to IBCTs, and the addition of the Ground Combat Vehicle.

"We think we need this to provide a versatile range of capabilities that include things like force protection that we currently don't have, off-road mobility, urban operational mobility, and the space, weight and power to deal with the network and other things we need to load onto vehicles today," Lennox said. He added the Army plans to field the vehicle in seven years.

Both Lennox and Phillips were on Capitol Hill to discuss modernization efforts.