The Marine Corps and Army’s commitment to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program has increased greatly in the recent months, a top acquisition official said, just as Congress has shown increased doubt about it.

“There has been a sea change in the program over the last couple of months,” William Taylor, the program executive officer for Land Systems, said in a recent interview. “Almost miraculously in the last two months the services have come to closure and gained consensus on requirements. So we now have agreement on joint requirements between the Army and the Marine Corps…and a path to an affordable vehicle.”

Three contractor teams have built prototypes for the JLTV’s current Technology Development (TD) phase: the General Tactical Vehicles (GTV) team of General Dynamics [GD] and AM General; BAE Systems-Navistar Defense LLC, an affiliate of Navistar International Corp. [NAV]; and Lockheed Martin [LMT]-BAE.

Yet even Taylor acknowledged that “the vibes (and) the signals coming from the services over the last couple years was lukewarm support for the program at best.”

With questions swirling about the JLTV’s standing, the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) called on Sept. 15 for eliminating the program in its fiscal year 2012 defense appropriations bill. The House-passed version of the FY ’12 legislation would reduce but not eliminate the Pentagon’s request for the JLTV, cutting $50 million from the $244 million request.

The SAC’s report on its bill cites multiple JLTV concerns, including that “as a result of increasing requirements” the scheduled Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase has doubled from 24 to 48 months, and project EMD costs have more than doubled to $670 million. The panel also faults the services’ “limited acquisition objectives” for JLTV, which would replace one-third of the Army’s Humvees and make up one-quarter of the Marine Corps’ future tactical vehicle fleet.

“Furthermore, the JLTV program, which was initially launched as a model for a revised acquisition approach, has already had significant changes in requirements and cost growth,” says the SAC report, which predicts “projected acquisition costs will make the program unaffordable in this challenging economic environment.” The panel calls for investing some requested JLTV funds on Humvee upgrades.

 Taylor said the SAC members were “fully within their right to view this situation as they did and interpret it as they did.” He said there have been “divergent requirements between the services, indecisiveness with respect to requirements, inability to achieve some requirements, and certainly cost and weight concerns by both of the services.”

“So all this comes down to the services were will within their rights to question whether or not this was the right course of action,” he said. “And certainly the SAC interpreting the signals coming out of the services were fully justified in viewing this the way they have.”

Yet he said a major shift has occurred in recent months, and the Army and Marine Corps have agreed on joint requirements for the JLTV. He said the services also “have done an outstanding job in really focusing on the cost-estimating piece of this program, and both services now believe that there is a path to an affordable vehicle.”

“There’s been a sea change in the services’ support of this program, and that’s new news to external stakeholders,” he said.

The newly agreed-upon requirements are working their way through the Army Requirements Oversight Council and Marine Requirements Oversight Council, Taylor said during a Sept. 15 interview.

Marine Corps officials–including James Conway, the recently retired former commandant–had voiced concern about the JLTV being too heavy for the expeditionary service.

Taylor said that weight “concern will always be there” and it’s “very appropriate that the Marine Corps keep pressure on the acquisition community and industry to keep the weight down.”

“It’s a fine ballet between keeping the weight down and maintaining mobility versus a desire to bolster and enhance the protection levels of this vehicle,” he said. “The combat developers believe that industry has found a methodology by which they can balance this out.”