The final fiscal year 2023 defense spending bill includes a $360 million cut to the Army’s planned buy of its new Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) headsets, while restoring $300 million for procurement of Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B) devices.

Appropriators also moved $40 million from the Army’s night vision devices procurement request to the service’s research and development account for continued work on the “1.2” version of the IVAS headset.

U..S. Army soldiers assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, experiment with the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) on Oct. 14 as part of Project Convergence 22 (U.S. Army Photo)

The Army in October detailed its updated plan for the new Microsoft [MSFT]-built IVAS headset, which now includes rolling out a small number of initial headsets next year while developing an updated “1.2” version of the capability that incorporates additional design improvements (Defense Daily, Oct. 10). 

Doug Bush, the Army’s top acquisition official, said at the time that the IVAS program’s initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) this summer highlighted further work required on the capability related to software stability, low-light performance and form factor of the headset.

The updated IVAS rollout plan follows the Army’s decision last year to push back the program’s timeline, to include delaying IOT&E from its original late FY ‘21 start date to allow time for further enhancements to the capability.

Both House and Senate appropriators included cuts to the Army’s proposed $400 million request for IVAS procurement in FY ‘23 when marking up their respective appropriations bills this summer.

“The committee remains concerned that IVAS continues to face software, hardware, and user-acceptance challenges that the Army has not sufficiently addressed,” Senate appropriators wrote at the time in an explanatory statement accompanying their version of the bill. “While the committee was encouraged by the department of the Army’s 2021 decision to extend testing and evaluation for an additional 10 months, it notes that significant development challenges with IVAS 1.1 remain.”

In March 2021, the Army awarded Microsoft a deal worth up to $21.9 billion over the next 10 years to move the IVAS augmented reality headset program from rapid prototyping into production (Defense Daily, March 31 2021).

Congress is set to consider the final 12-bill $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations package this week, which includes $858 billion for defense spending, with the Senate set to take up a vote first facing a looming government shutdown deadline on Friday (Defense Daily, Dec. 20). 

For ENVG-B night vision devices, which are built by L3Harris Technologies [LHX] and Elbit Systems of America, appropriators have included a $300 million plus-up for procurement after the Army did not include funding in its FY ‘23 budget request.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in early May, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) pressed Army Secretary Christine Wormuth on the decision to include funding for the new night vision goggles in the budget request (Defense Daily, May 5).

Wormuth at the time responded that Army leadership concluded it had procured the number of night vision goggles “that we thought would meet our requirements.”

ENVG-B was included on the Army’s $5.1 billion unfunded priorities list for FY ‘23, with Shaheen having noted during the hearing in May the document states that “a lack of funding decreases soldier’s survivability” and “places the manufacturer at risk of closing the production line.”

L3Harris, which produces the system in Shaheen’s home state, and Elbit Systems of America each received production deals from the Army in October 2020 worth potentially $442 million to deliver ENVG-B devices to begin replacing its legacy monocular night vision devices (Defense Daily, Oct. 22 2020).