WASHINGTON — Worried the launch of the new U.S. Army Futures Command will lead to the defunding of development programs and harm small businesses vital to the defense-industrial base, a key U.S. senator is having the government’s accountability arm investigate.

In a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, noted that 80 percent of Army funding for research and development programs will be reprogrammed to pay for the new command.

“The defunding and subsequent cancellation of these projects will likely have negative impacts on small businesses nationwide,” Cardin, D-Md., said in his May 7 letter.

Cardin is referencing Army Secretary Mark Esper’s congressional testimony from December, in which he said the service’s new strategy will align 80 percent of the Army’s $2.4 billion science and technology funding profile, or $1.2 billion, against its six modernization priorities.

The GAO will investigate, Cardin’s staff confirmed Thursday to Defense News.

The new command, announced in October and expected to reach an initial operational capability this summer, is a marquee initiative for the Army, meant to fix its struggles to keep major modernization programs on track. But the GAO probe may throw a speed bump in the way.

“Before [the Department of Defense] moves too far down this road,” Cardin wants to know what the impact will be on the country’s military, national security and the Small Business Innovation Research program. He has asked for an accounting of the analytical underpinnings of the command, its goals and its success metrics.

“The Army must have the technology and the tools needed to successfully carry out its national security mission, but we need to know how great a cost the American taxpayers and small businesses will bear for this new ‘Futures’ Command,” Cardin said in a statement.

Cardin had a few tough questions he wanted GAO to ask, among them:

  • “Did the Army perform studies to determine the impact of a Futures Command on the Defense Industrial Base, the Small Business Innovation Research Program, and on small businesses that support current Army programs? Can the Army provide quantifiable estimates of these impacts?”
  • “Has the Army conducted a consequential risk assessment to estimate how reshaping multiple organizations will negatively or positively impact the force? If so, what were the results?”

Lawmakers have been lobbying to attract the command. Cardin was among lawmakers in Maryland’s congressional delegation who signed a letter in April asking the Army to consider Maryland as a location.

Joe Gould was the senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry. He had previously served as Congress reporter.

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