The two-week federal government shutdown halted Army and Marine Corps testing of the 66 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles that Oshkosh, AM General and Lockheed Martin delivered in August for 14 months of test and evaluation, Army officials said today.
“Some of the test sites didn’t shut down at the same time and they didn’t come up at the same time,” which complicated matters as far as coordinating across multiple sites performing multiple tests, said US Army Col. John Cavedo, program manager for the JLTV program.
Even when the funding spigot was turned back on after the two-week shutdown, “starting back up has been a very difficult proposition,” he added. “We are behind our current ideal test plan right now,” but he said he’s confident the Army and Marine Corps will be able to make up for those delays over the next nine months.
But that isn’t the end of the program’s fiscal troubles.
Cavedo told Defense News in August that if sequestration remains in place and the program doesn’t receive a new infusion of cash by July, the services will have to begin curtailing test and evaluation activities, pushing back the program’s schedule.
A production award is expected in late fiscal 2015 for approximately 50,000 JLTVs for the Army, with their Marine Corps partners purchasing another 5,500 vehicles.
The Marine Corps has made noises in recent years about possibly pulling out of the program because of the $250,000-per-vehicle price tag and weight issues. But Lt. Col. Michael Burks, Marine Corps program manager, Light Tactical Vehicles, reiterated that the Marines are all in on the program — with a significant caveat.
“The Marine Corps is emphatic on maintaining a combat capacity, so we’re absolutely focused on more tooth to tail,” even as the size of the force falls over the next several years, he said.
“The focus right now is on what is good enough. I won’t speculate on how that’s going to impact across ground combat tactical vehicle strategy … so in terms of what’s good enough, I offer that right now, in the current conversation, in the context of the size of the Marine Corps that we’re looking at, 5,500 JLTVs is good enough to meet deployed commanders critical mission needs.”
Hard decisions about the testing program and the overall schedule for awards will have to be made in the second quarter of fiscal 2014 if sequester remains in place, Cavedo said. In the 2014 budget, the program took a $5 million hit under the sequester, with another $11 million taken out of its coffers by congressional marks.
Overall, the Army requested $84 million for JLTV work in fiscal 2014, while the Marines have asked for $50 million.
Kevin Fahey, head of Army PEO Combat Support & Combat Service Support, added that “our problems have had nothing to do with the program, and everything to do with the budget” in recent years, and that he needs a budget decision in the third quarter of fiscal 2014 in order to keep everything moving ahead as planned.
“Right now we’re on the path where we’re on track,” he said.
But even with those rough deadlines set for later this year, “we can’t even begin to tell you what the actual date is that we run out of money” Cavedo warned.