Bending Steel (Someday)

By Marjorie Censer / April 8, 2009 at 5:00 AM

A new Army vehicle modernization program “will take 15 years or more to implement,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday, while also stressing the importance of launching that effort.

“We need to get agreement with the Army and kind of broad agreement on what that program ought to look like and then build it out and . . . start bending steel just as soon as we can,” Gates said during a teleconference with reporters.

The modernization initiative is a response to Gates's decision to cancel the eight manned ground vehicles in the Army Future Combat Systems program -- a decision he said he didn't make until this weekend, just days before Monday's announcement.

“One reason why it was so difficult was because the Army felt very strongly about it,” he said during the same phone call. “I spent a lot of time with ((Army Chief of Staff)) Gen. ((George)) Casey and ((Army)) Secretary ((Pete)) Geren -- probably more time with them on this particular issue than on any other single issue with anybody else in the building.”

But -- as Gates said on Monday and in a roundtable with reporters yesterday -- he concluded the vehicle component of the program was not responsive to the lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.