From the NY Times New York Times An Army Program to Build a High-Tech Force Hits Cost Snags By TIM WEINER Published: March 28, 2005 The Army's plan to transform itself into a futuristic high-technology force has become so expensive that some of the military's strongest supporters in Congress are questioning the program's costs and complexity. Army officials said Saturday that the first phase of the program, called Future Combat Systems, could run to $145 billion. Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the "technological bridge to the future" would equip 15 brigades of roughly 3,000 soldiers, or about one-third of the force the Army plans to field, over a 20-year span. That price tag, larger than past estimates publicly disclosed by the Army, does not include a projected $25 billion for the communications network needed to connect the future forces. Nor does it fully account for Army plans to provide Future Combat weapons and technologies to forces beyond those first 15 brigades. Now some of the military's advocates in Congress are asking how to pay the bill. "We're dealing today with a train wreck," Representative Curt Weldon, Republican of Pennsylvania and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at a March 16 Congressional hearing on the cost and complexity of Future Combat Systems. "We're left with impossible decisions," said Mr. Weldon, a strong supporter of Pentagon spending who was lamenting the trillion-dollar costs for the major weapons systems the Pentagon is building. One of those decisions, he warned, might cut back Future Combat. The Army sees Future Combat, the most expensive weapons program it has ever undertaken, as a seamless web of 18 different sets of networked weapons and military robots. The program is at the heart of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's campaign to transform the Army into a faster, lighter force in which stripped-down tanks could be put on a transport plane and flown into battle, and information systems could protect soldiers of the future as heavy armor has protected them in the past. Army officials say the task is a technological challenge as complicated as putting an astronaut on the moon. They call Future Combat weapons, which may take more than a decade to field, crucial for a global fight against terror. But the bridge to the future remains a blueprint. Army officials issued a stop-work order in January for the network that would link Future Combat weapons, citing its failure to progress. They said this month that they did not know if they could build a tank light enough to fly. The Army is asking Congress to approve Future Combat while it is fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan whose costs, according to the Congressional Research Service, now exceed $275 billion. Future Combat is one of the biggest items in the Pentagon's plans to build more than 70 major weapons systems at a cost of more than $1.3 trillion. The Army has canceled two major weapons programs, the Crusader artillery system and the Comanche helicopter, "to protect funding for the Future Combat System," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and a member of the Armed Services Committee. "That is why we have to get the F.C.S. program right." David M. Walker, the comptroller general of the United States, said in an interview that the Pentagon's future arsenal was unaffordable and Congress needed "to make some choices now." "There is a substantial gap between what the Pentagon is seeking in weapons systems and what we will be able to afford and sustain," said Mr. Walker, who oversees the Government Accountability Office, the budget watchdog of Congress. "We are not going to be able to afford all of this." He added, "Every dollar we spend on a want today is a dollar we won't be able to spend on a need tomorrow." Paul L. Francis, the acquisition and sourcing management director for the accountability office, told Congress that the Army was building Future Combat Systems without the data it needed to guide it. "If everything goes as planned, the program will attain the level of knowledge in 2008 that it should have had before it started in 2003," Mr. Francis said in written testimony. "But things are not going as planned." He warned that Future Combat Systems, in its early stages of research and development, was showing signs typical of multibillion-dollar weapons programs that cost far more than expected and deliver fewer weapons than promised. Future Combat is a network of 53 crucial technologies, he said, and 52 are unproven. Brig. Gen. Charles A. Cartwright, deputy director for the Army research and development command, said in an interview that Future Combat was a work in progress, evolving in an upward spiral from the drawing board to the assembly line. "We are working through the affordability," General Cartwright said. He acknowledged that the Army's cost estimates could spiral upward as well. The Army's publicly disclosed cost estimates for Future Combat stood at $92 billion last month. That excluded research and development, which the G.A.O. says will run to $30 billion. Mr. Boyce, the Army spokesman, said on Saturday that Future Combat costs were estimated at $25 billion for research and development and from $6.1 billion to $8 billion for each of 15 future brigades, or as high as $145 billion. The Army wants Future Combat to be a smaller, faster force than the one now fighting in Iraq. Tanks, mobile cannons and personnel carriers would be made so light that they could be flown to a war zone. But first they must be stripped of heavy armor. In place of armor, American soldiers in combat would be protected by information systems, so they could see and kill the enemy before being seen and killed, Army officials say. Future Combat soldiers, weapons and robots are to be linked by a $25 billion web, Joint Tactical Radio Systems, known as JTRS (pronounced "jitters"). The network would transmit the battlefield information intended to protect soldiers. It is not included in the Future Combat budget. If JTRS does not work, Future Combat will fail, General Cartwright said. The Army halted production on the first set of JTRS radios in January, saying they were not progressing as planned. "The principle of replacing mass with information is threatened," Mr. Francis said in an interview. "Now you'd have light vehicles fighting the same way as the current force, without the protection. This is one reason why we don't know yet if Future Combat Systems will work." Another factor is the weight of the new weapons. Future Combat's tanks and mobile cannons, all built on similar frames, were supposed to weigh no more than 19 tons each. At that weight, they could be flown to a war zone in a few days, rather than taking weeks or months to deploy. They will weigh "less than 50 tons, perhaps less than 30 tons," Claude M. Bolton Jr., the Army's acquisition executive, told Congress at the March 16 hearing. "Will it be 20 tons or 19? I don't know the answer to that." That doubt may damage a conceptual underpinning for Future Combat: the ability to deploy armed forces quickly in a crisis. Unless the weapons are as light as advertised, they will have to arrive in a theater of war by ship. Boeing, best-known for making commercial aircraft and military space systems, is designing Future Combat Systems in the role of lead systems integrator, acting as architect and general contractor. It is also responsible for the JTRS radios. Boeing is being paid $21 billion through 2014 for its work on Future Combat Systems. "It's certainly a key element of our defense business," said Dennis Muilenburg, the vice president and general manager for Future Combat Systems at Boeing. The Army's Future Combat contract with Boeing, which has suffered several Pentagon contracting scandals in the last few years, exempts the company from financial disclosures demanded under the federal Truth in Negotiations Act. The challenge for the Army and Boeing is to build "an entirely new Army, reconfigured to perform the global policing mission," said Gordon Adams, a former director for national security spending at the Office of Management and Budget, "and that is enormously expensive." Mr. Rumsfeld told the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee last month about the challenge of remaking an Army in the middle of a war. "Abraham Lincoln once compared reorganizing the Union Army during the Civil War to bailing out the Potomac River with a teaspoon," he said. "I hope and trust that what we are proposing to accomplish will not be that difficult."