WASHINGTON — A production decision for the U.S. Army’s critical battle command system has been delayed, the service confirmed to Defense News.
An Office of the Secretary of Defense-level Defense Acquisition Board review was scheduled for Nov. 17, but due to some administrative issues, the board was unable to make a decision on the way forward for a program that has already experienced years of delays and setbacks.
The Northrop Grumman-developed battle command system was originally meant to serve as the command-and-control system for the Army’s future Integrated Air and Missile Defense System against regional ballistic missile threats, but the service has since expanded its planned role to tie together a much broader array of sensors and shooters capable of defeating other complex threats like cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft.
To date, the Army has spent $2.7 billion to develop the system.
“A small number of statutory and regulatory documents supporting the Milestone C [production] decision are in the final stages of approval, but not yet fully approved,” an Army spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement. “The program office and OSD directorates will hold technical briefings to obtain final approval signatures on some of the open documents. Document completion is largely administrative.”
Specifically, final approval is needed for the program protection plan, the life-cycle sustainment plan and an update to the Capabilities Development Document, the spokesperson said.
The principal members of the Defense Acquisition Board “concurred with the program’s achievement of all Engineering & Manufacturing Development Phase exit criteria,” the statement noted.
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, directed a follow-on meeting within 30 days to review document completion status. That review is anticipated to take place in mid-December.
The delay in reaching a production decision is not expected to affect the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System program schedule — at least in terms of operational testing and other major milestones ahead.
The program struggled in 2016 during a limited-user test, but following several soldier checkouts and other test events over the past few years as well as a successful limited-user test this summer, it is expected the battle command system will be approved for production.
Once approved for production, it will move into an initial operational test and evaluation phase in 2021. The Army plans to equip its first unit with the system in the third or fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.
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.