By Ann Roosevelt

Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter yesterday issued an acquisition decision memorandum (ADM) that brings to an end the Future Combat System (FCS) in its current form.

“I hereby cancel the FCS BCT acquisition program,” Carter wrote in the ADM. ” This determination does not include the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) Special Interest Program. The Army shall take the necessary actions to implement this decision. In its place, the Army will transition to an Army modernization plan consisting of a number of integrated acquisition programs…”

At an estimated $160 billion, FCS has been the Army’s largest modernization program.

Boeing [BA] and SAIC [SAI], that manage the FCS program for the Army, said they are reviewing the ADM “to determine the extent of the impact on the current program of record. We are committed to working closely with our Army customer to implement required changes to the program in a timely and efficient manner and move forward in fielding required capabilities to our soldiers.”

Those integrated acquisition programs would consist of: “one to produce and field the first seven Spin Out Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team (SO E-IBCT) unit sets; one or more Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) to include, but not limited to, MDAPs for follow-on BCT modernization to develop, produce, and field required unmanned systems, sensors, and networking for the remaining combat brigades; one MDAP to continue development and fielding of incremental ground tactical network capability; and one MDAP to develop ground combat vehicles,” the ADM said.

Planning for those programs must be briefed to Carter within 30 days.

The Boeing statement said, “While the decision to cancel the Manned Ground Vehicle portion of the program is disappointing, the acceleration and expansion of the network to Army combat brigades reflects confidence in the technological maturity of FCS capabilities and the progress made on the program.”

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) report on the fiscal year 2010 defense budget authorization bill fully funded, at $2.45 billion, those elements of the program that will continue as separate programs.

However, the committee report would limit the number of Spin Out Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team equipment sets that can be procured under low-rate initial production to one brigade set. “This will ensure that the equipment is fully tested prior to committing to full-rate production, the HASC report said. There is, however, an exception for meeting operational need statements.

In making decisions for fiscal year 2010 in April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed a specific concern that the portion of the FCS program to field new manned combat vehicles did not adequately reflect the lessons of counterinsurgency and close quarters combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was further troubled by the terms of the current single contract covering the whole FCS effort. The restructuring addresses these issues.

At this time, the Army is “beginning the process” to issue stop work orders directed in accordance with the ADM, Army spokesman Paul Mehney told Defense Daily.

The Spin Out programs, including activities with the Army Evaluation task Force at Ft. Bliss, Texas, will continue, he said.

At the same time, the FCS program office is planning to reorganize under a new name and program structure to execute the ADM, he said.

Also, the ADM terminates the manned ground vehicle portion of the previous FCS program and directs an assessment, with the Marine Corps, of joint capability gaps for ground combat vehicles.

The assessment will inform new requirements for Army ground combat vehicle modernization, leading to the launch of a new acquisition program in 2010. The assessment is under way at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), which has created a task force to examine the critical issues in Army-wide modernization.

“Boeing, SAIC, and the entire FCS industry team remain committed to working with the Army to implement its Brigade Combat Team modernization strategy,” the companies said. “We have been good partners on the FCS program, consistently executing to the Army’s plan through previous program adjustments and incorporating lessons learned to meet evolving requirements. The recent FCS System of Systems Preliminary Design Review proved that a family of networked systems will provide greater combat capabilities, including enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, across the full spectrum of conflict.”

The two companies said, “Our goal remains the same – to build on the progress made on the program and meet the needs of our customers by developing and fielding the best capabilities for our nation’s soldiers.”

The modernization task force is leading a comprehensive review of force designs: the BCT modernization plan, network-integrated architectures, and ground combat vehicle operational requirements.

“The BCT modernization strategy will yield a versatile mix of BCTs that will leverage mobility, protection, information, and precision fires to conduct effective operations across the spectrum of conflict,” said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, TRADOC.

The termination of the Manned Ground Vehicles portion of the FCS program will negatively impact the Army’s ability to develop the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) independent of the FCS development timeline as required by the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act of 2009. DoD is working closely with the Congress to determine the appropriate path forward for the NLOS-C.

Additionally, the ADM directs the Army to identify the most efficient means to end the manned ground vehicle development effort with the least cost to the taxpayer and to use work already completed in any follow-on ground combat vehicle developmental programs.

Once the stop work orders have been issued, discussions on the termination liabilities for the manned ground vehicle portion of the program will begin. “This is not an instantaneous process,” Mehney said.

Those costs are unknown at this point, because they must be negotiated with Boeing.