Once and Future Combat

By Marjorie Censer / August 3, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Though Defense Secretary Robert Gates was right to cancel the vehicle component of the Army's Future Combat Systems program, the service needs a new modernization strategy to ensure it does not repeat "the mistakes of the past," according to a new Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments report (.pdf).

The report, "Correcting Course: The Cancellation of the Future Combat Systems Program," was authored by CSBA president Andrew Krepinevich, a new member of the Defense Policy Board, and Evan Braden Montgomery.

It argues that Gates' cancellation of the manned ground vehicles was "justified" because the FCS program "was an ambitious but fundamentally flawed attempt to transform Army force structure.

"Although its original intent -- to improve the Army's ability to meet emerging threats in a changing security environment -- was reasonable, the program ultimately pursued extremely complex and costly solutions to a set of military challenges that have become less and less relevant since the program's inception," the document continues.

More specifically, Krepinevich and Montgomery write, the FCS effort involved fiscal, technical, joint and operational risk.

Yet, they warn that the cancellation of the vehicle component will not itself guarantee success. The report notes that a "a number of FCS components will still be introduced to units throughout the Army over the next decade and a half" and that the replacement ground combat vehicle will be produced under roughly the same timetable as the previous MGV program.

"Apparently, the Army will attempt to incorporate as much of the FCS program as possible into any new design," the report reads.

Consequently, it adds, the Army should "develop a modernization strategy that will mitigate the risks described above, in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past."