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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stirred up controversy on April 2 when it released a highly critical report on the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program, just days before the fiscal 2014 budget was set to be released.
But the two companies in the running to win up to $29 billion in GCV work by the end of the decade reacted sharply to the report, with executives saying the government analysts evaluated requirements that haven’t been current since March 2011 while not taking into account significant program changes since then.
The CBO admits that it used data first published by the Army in 2010 to conduct its analysis, but did so because it had no more current data. In footnotes, the analysts do make mention of the January 2013 changes in program, which have shifted cost estimates and the program’s timeline.
While the report doesn’t make any hard recommendations, it does outline four options the Army could choose in developing a next-generation armored combat vehicle starting in 2019:
Purchase the Israeli Namer armored personnel carrier.
Significantly upgrade the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle by buying new vehicles.
Purchase the German-made Puma infantry fighting vehicle.
Cancel the GCV program outright and extend the lifecycle of the current Bradley fleet.
Overall, the CBO maintained that the Puma rated the highest when weighing four areas: protection and survivability, lethality, mobility, and passenger capacity.
Steve Franz, senior director of the GCV program at General Dynamics Land Systems, said that by focusing on those four capabilities the CBO ignored other critical Army requirements, including the ability of the vehicle to adopt the latest communications technologies, the need for the vehicle to incrementally accept modernization over time, and the need for long-term sustainability.
To ignore the incremental modernization requirement is to ignore “probably one of the most critical capabilities that the GCV will bring to the table,” Franz said. What’s more, “leaving communications out certainly glosses over a major capability” that the service is looking for.
The Army is preparing to field the first increment of its vehicle-mounted WIN-T communications network this year to two brigade combat teams deploying to Afghanistan, and the ability to accept the network is a critical component not only for the GCV, but also for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
The service is trying, with some difficulty, to find ways to install the network on the Bradley and the Abrams tank, and plans to include the capability on all future vehicles.
The data the CBO used to conduct its study “was not consistent with the design we’re putting forward for the GCV,” Franz said.
BAE Systems’ Mark Signorelli offered a similar criticism, saying “the notional GCV that they did their comparisons to bears no resemblance to the requirements that the program issued.”
Signorelli, the president and general manager of vehicle systems at BAE Systems Land and Armaments division, added that since the CBO used the old report, it used an “old set of data and they did a great analysis [of that] but none of the data that they were using was reflective of the current program.”
When the GCV program kicked off, BAE looked at all of the vehicles that the CBO assessed in its report, “and we would have loved to offer an upgraded Bradley that met the GCV requirements, but our assessment was that an upgraded Bradley that met all of these requirements wasn’t a Bradley, it was a GCV.”
A proposed version of the Puma IFV had already been assessed by the Army for the GCV requirement, but it had been rejected when the Army awarded two Technology Development contracts worth $878 million to BAE Systems and General Dynamics in August 2011.
Defense contractor SAIC had partnered with Boeing and two German companies, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Rheinmetall Defence to offer the Puma, which the German Army has been using since 2009. The team filed a protest, which was denied in December 2011.
Both executives also confirmed that although the report rates other vehicles as having greater firepower, both companies are offering 30mm guns mounted on their platforms, as opposed to the 25mm requirement found in earlier iterations of the program.
It is estimated the Army will have to spend $29 billion between 2014 and 2030 on 1,748 GCVs.