WASHINGTON — Senate appropriators want the Army to move more quickly to buy vehicles capable of operating in the Arctic, according to its version of the fiscal 2021 defense spending bill released Nov. 10.
“The committee encourages the Secretary of the Army to pursue equipment and vehicles necessary for Arctic and cold weather environments,” bill language stated.
The Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subpanel is adding $8.25 million above the president’s FY21 defense budget request for a family of cold weather vehicles in order to speed up procurement.
Focus on the Arctic has increased in recent years as sea ice is receding at 13 percent per decade, opening up economic opportunities but also competition as Russia continues to project power into the Arctic region and China looks to capitalize on investment in minerals, natural gas, ocean fisheries and trade there.
The Defense Subcommittee also wants the Army, no later than 60 days after the bill becomes law, to submit a report to all four congressional defense committees on overland mobility capabilities in the Arctic.
The report should contain a rundown and assessment of current capabilities, requirements and operational challenges for cold weather tracked vehicles as well as an assessment of the current family of cold weather all-terrain vehicle program. The committee asks for the Army to justify its current procurement timeline and what requirements might exist for a joint program.
The Army, in its FY21 budget request, is kicking off a new-start effort that will provide transportation for “up to a 10-soldier element” for emergency medical evacuation, command-and-control capability, and general cargo transportation capable of on- and off-road operations in an Arctic environment “under a wide range of otherwise impassable terrain, to include frozen ice and extreme cold weather conditions,” according to the service’s FY21 justification book.
The Cold-weather All-Terrain Vehicle, or CATV, would support year-round activity from training to homeland defense and security and the Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission.
The CATV will have four variants.
A general-purpose variant would be capable of accommodating no less than nine soldiers plus a driver, equipment and supplies for three days of operations.
The ambulance variant would be able to transport equipment, two caregivers, and no less than two litter patients and four ambulatory patients in addition to a driver.
A command-and-control vehicle would provide space, weight and power to host standard joint communications and common operating picture platforms. The vehicle should be able to be used while on the move and require minimal setup when stopped by six soldiers and a driver.
And the cargo/flatbed variant would be able to carry outsized equipment and cargo that can be loaded with a forklift from either side. The cab should be able to fit the driver and a vehicle commander.
The Army only budgeted for $1 million in FY21 to kick off the program, with plans to spend $17 million in FY22 to buy 14 vehicles, $23 million in FY23 for 18, $29 million in FY24 for 22, and $40 million in FY25 for 31.
The funding in FY21, according to the Army budget documents, would support the refurbishment of CATV test assets.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.