The U.S. Army will delay its Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program, cancelling the current Request for Proposals and issuing a new one in about two months, DoD officials said Aug. 25.
One industry source said contract awards would follow the new RfP by about nine months.
The source said the delay would be costly for the industry teams that responded to the February RfP, because their engineers and support personnel will continue to be paid during the delay despite a lack of government funding.
The Army requested $934 million for the program for fiscal year 2011. One congressional source said the new delay means the service "may lose a good portion of the FY11 request, depending on what the new program schedule looks like."
In a statement, DoD officials said the decision followed a May review by the Army and the Pentagon's acquisition, logistics and technology shop of the GCV program's vehicle capabilities, operational needs, acquisition strategy, program schedule and technology readiness.
The reviewers, dubbed the Red Team, recommended that the Army prioritize the planned vehicle's capabilities to meet achievable goals within the program's acquisition schedule.
In response, service officials determined that a revised GCV acquisition plan would be needed, one built around "mature technologies in order to reduce significant developmental risk over a seven-year schedule following the initial contract award," the statement said. "The refined RfP will result in a vehicle that provides soldiers with critical armored protection in the modern combat environment."
The industry source said the move was driven by internal differences over the requirements for the new vehicles, saying service officials "simply cannot agree on the performance requirements, and things like how they should be prioritized."
The source said the Red Team told Army officials they had two options: upgrade the existing ground vehicle fleet; or start over, a move that the source said could mean it will be seven to 10 years before the first GCV is delivered.
The House Armed Services Committee, in a report that accompanied their version of the 2011 defense authorization bill, expressed concerns about the GCV's requirements, saying they were "extremely ambitious in some areas."
"The committee is concerned that, once again, the Army may be asking the defense industry to build a 'gold-plated' vehicle that may take longer to develop than planned and prove to be extremely expensive to procure," the committee said in its report.
The House also said it was concerned by the Army's choice to release a request for proposals at the same time it was undertaking an analysis of alternatives. While the Red Team scrutinized the program, a separate group conducted the analysis of alternatives, which normally takes place before an RfP is issued.
In February, before the RfP was released, Maj. Gen. John Bartley, program executive officer for integration, said that carrying out the RfP and the analysis of alternatives in parallel would give the Army more information to decide on the GCV. He said the service would be able to consider industry's proposals, the cost of those proposals and whatever alternatives to a new vehicle may be out there.
"If the analysis says the gap can be filled by product improving the Bradley [armored fighting vehicle] or the Abrams [tank] or a Stryker [personnel carrier], then the GCV goes away and the Army looks at upgrading those systems. That's a very big possibility," Bartley said at the time.
In the House report, the committee urged the Army to conduct a thorough review of the GCV requirements.
The committee also encouraged the Army "to carefully consider whether or not it is possible to upgrade current vehicles, including some foreign designs, to meet baseline GCV requirements on an accelerated schedule that could get a vehicle in the hands of troops more quickly than the current seven-year timeline."
The program was started after Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled the vehicle component of the Army's Future Combat Systems program last year. Three industry teams responded to a February request for proposals to build up to three technology demonstrators. The Army had planned to award the demonstrator contracts in September.
Those teams are an SAIC-led team that includes Boeing and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann; a BAE-Northrop-led effort; and a group led by General Dynamics Land Systems that includes Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Critics have questioned the GCV's heavy design (50 to 70 tons) and have wondered why replacing the Bradley fighting vehicle is the Army's top priority now.
Army officials offered their argument in a series of recent white papers: The GCV, which will carry an entire infantry squad, will allow the kind of decentralized maneuver warfare and wide-area security that will be the Army's critical contributions to future joint warfare.
The Bradley carries just six soldiers besides its three-person crew, forcing a squad commander to split up the team. Meanwhile, the Stryker is too lightly armored for full-spectrum warfare, while the various Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles have limited mobility, Army officials argued.
Kate Brannen contributed to this report.