WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is “knee-deep” in refining its assessment of tactical, wheeled vehicle fleet requirements, the head of the service’s equipping component has told Defense News.
The Army Requirements Oversight Council has been conducting a study for at least a year that is expected to conclude in fiscal 2022 and inform the correct balance of Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and older Humvees as well as the requirement for Infantry Squad Vehicles.
“We absolutely know that we will have a large [number] of Humvees for a very long time, and in order to sustain that large number of Humvees in our fleet for a long time, we need a healthy industrial base,” Lt. Gen. Erik Peterson, the Army G-8 chief, said in an interview ahead of the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
“The precise quantities and mix remain to be seen, but in play are the JLTV, the Humvee and the ISV. All are being considered right now,” he added.
Procurement plans for all tactical vehicles over the next five years is unknown, as the Defense Department has deviated from normal practice, excluding those budget plans as part of the FY22 request. The department did not include the five-year spending plan in order to give the Biden administration more time to work out its strategy and direction when it comes to equipping and modernizing the force.
Even when the Army finishes the assessment, that the strategy won’t necessarily be static, Peterson cautioned.
“What I can tell you is that we will bring our tactical, wheeled vehicle strategy and approach, balance that against an implementation plan over the next couple of years, and apply resourcing towards that. How that unfolds over time ... whether that’s recapitalization and refurbishment of Humvees or procurement of JLTVs or ISVs, all of those will take many, many years, and I think there will be some dynamics as that unfolds,” Peterson said.
In recent budget cycles, JLTV has taken hits, with FY22 being no exception in the Army’s request.
The service, in its FY22 request, plans to procure less JLTVs than in FY21 and is asking for $575 million. The Army received $884 million in FY21 for the vehicles.
The Army cut the JLTV procurement in FY20 by 863 vehicles when it had originally planned to buy 3,035 vehicles in that year. The JLTV was again reduced in FY21, during which the Army said it would buy 1,920 JLTVs at $894.4 million.
The service said at the time that the JLTV reductions won’t affect the force’s overall procurement requirement, and that the Army will extend the process to buy the vehicles out by additional years to FY41.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville included procuring additional JLTVs in his FY22 unfunded requirements list sent to Congress because — at the current procurement rates set in the FY22 budget — the Army’s plans to reach its acquisition objective by FY41 is in jeopardy.
The $122 million reduction the Army took in the JLTV program will delay the fielding of one armored brigade combat team, which would push the end of fielding out to FY45, McConville said.
It is unclear how JLTV procurement in FY22 will shake out in funding bills on Capitol Hill. The Senate Armed Services Committee, in its FY22 markup of the defense policy bill, plans to increase the JLTV funding by $120 million to fulfill the Army’s unfunded requirement.
But the House Armed Services Committee, in its version of the markup, would cut JLTV procurement by $89 million, noting that the funding is “early to need.”
JLTV would take a hit in the House Appropriations defense subcommittee markup in FY22, when lawmakers would cut the JLTV program by $97 million and essentially take that money to cover $100 million that the National Guard wants for Humvee modifications, which the Army zeroed out in its FY22 budget request after it received $100 million in FY21.
The JLTV was meant to replace the Humvee fleet, but not 1-for-1, and it’s unclear how many Humvees the Army may keep or buy in addition to the JLTV fleet, which is a more expensive vehicle.
Oshkosh Defense beat out Humvee-maker AM General and Lockheed Martin in 2015 to build the replacement for the Humvee for both the Army and the Marine Corps. The low-rate initial production contract was worth $6.7 billion, and the entire program is estimated to be worth $30 billion through 2024.
The Army plans to kick off a competition for the next JLTV contract in January 2022, when companies will attempt to unseat incumbent Oshkosh in what could be a $12 billion deal.
In FY20, the Army still had an objective of 50,000 Humvees or a light, less expensive alternative like the Infantry Squad Vehicle that GM Defense is building for the service.
The General Motors division delivered the first ISV to the Army in October 2020, 120 days after the service chose it to build the new troop carrier. The Army awarded the company a $214 million contract to produce 649 vehicles by the end of FY24. The service, at the time, planned to procure a total of 2,065 ISVs.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.