WASHINGTON — The Army’s new Next-Generation Combat Vehicle’s modernization arm is expanding its scope from prototyping next-generation vehicles and ground robots to also guiding more near-term programs through the procurement process.

The NGCV cross-functional team — which serves under the new Army Futures Command — is taking on the Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, which is being manufactured by BAE Systems and just finished its limited user test, as well as the Mobile Protected Firepower capability.

The Army is close to entering a competitive prototyping phase of the MPF program and expects to choose to industry participants to build the vehicles by the end of the year.

The NGCV’s top priority is to competitively develop prototypes to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle with an Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, but that will be farther afield than both the AMPV program and MPF.

Adding MPF and AMPV to the cross-functional team’s portfolio of projects that seek to modernize the Army to operate across multiple domains in denied and challenging environments against peer adversaries may come as a surprise, since the pair of vehicles are not seen as the futuristic capabilities the Army is looking for when it thinks about where the force will be in 2028, when it expects to be fully modernized.

But the thinking goes, according to Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, the NGCV CFT lead, that the outfit’s involvement helps establish a “whole of Army” approach to developing new vehicles.

“The idea is that as one technology develops, we can look across this plate of vehicles and give each of them the best that they can be,” Coffman said.

”We can’t stop evolving our vehicle fleet, we must roll in new technology,” which goes for both AMPV and MPF, he added.

One industry source theorized that moving AMPV and MPF into the Next-Gen Combat Vehicle portfolio would help shelter the programs from possible budget cuts as Congress and the service look at low-hanging fruit as bill payers for its top six modernization priorities that will build the future force.

Since NGCV is the second priority in Army modernization, anything inside its portfolio is likely more protected from the budget ax.

While the NGCV CFT is focused on near-term programs like MPF, AMPV and a Bradley replacement, it will later develop a robotic combat vehicle and a next-generation main battle tank.