Military trucks once were the redheaded stepchildren of the defense
budget, but are no longer so. They serve as workhorses in the occupation
and counterinsurgency war in Iraq, while also bearing the brunt
of enemy attacks.
Although Army logistics officials for years had complained that
the service was not providing enough funds to maintain its nearly
210,000 tactical trucks, it wasn’t until mid-2003 that senior
leaders decided to take a serious look at the state of the fleet.
About a year ago, the Army unveiled a so-called “tactical
wheeled vehicle strategy” that is intended to correct the
shortages of trucks, which had existed for some time. “Tactical
wheeled vehicles were under-funded for many years,” said retired
Army Lt. Gen. John S. Caldwell, former chief military deputy for
acquisition, technology and logistics.
The strategy was designed to set priorities for funding near and
far-term needs through 2030. The 2003 analysis concluded what was
already painfully obvious: the fleet was aging at an accelerated
pace due to higher than expected use and inadequate funding. During
the past decade, Army spending on truck modernization has averaged
less than a billion dollars a year, a pittance in the context of
a $60 billion to $70 billion annual defense procurement budget.
“Last year, we spent a lot of time and effort literally trying
to figure out the state of the fleet,” said Maj. Gen. Brian
I. Geehan, commandant of the U.S. Army Transportation Center and
School at Fort Eustis, Va.
Based on that analysis, the Army decided to add $2.1 billion to
the 2006-2011 budget, Geehan said in an interview.
The additional funds will be parsed across the fleet, 50 percent
of which is composed of light trucks, mostly Humvees. Forty percent
are medium trucks, and 10 percent are heavy haul movers. Nearly
40,000 of the Army’s trucks are in Iraq.
A senior level panel, known as the tactical wheeled vehicles board
of directors, meets monthly to discuss the state of the fleet, Geehan
said. The board includes the program executive officer, the commandant
of the transportation school, and the Army’s three-star deputy
chiefs of staff for force development, programs and logistics.
“We are monitoring the health of the fleet, programming resources
and adjusting,” based on developments in Iraq, he added. The
board also has authority to approve purchases of new technologies,
if useful products emerge in commercial industry. “We can
make management decisions on a monthly basis,” Geehan said.
Purchases of new trucks also are planned. More vehicles are needed
not only to replace those destroyed and worn out in combat, but
also to satisfy the expected growth in the number of trucks in the
Army’s new brigade structure. Under an ongoing reorganization,
each of the Army’s 10 divisions will be made up of modular
brigades. The idea is for each brigade to be able to operate more
independently from the division than is now possible. The upshot
will be a surge in the number of logistics companies assigned to
“We will put more drivers into our Army formations at the
battalion and brigade levels,” Geehan said. “As we move
to a modular force structure, we are going to embed the brigade
support battalion in most combat battalions. They’ll all have
In essence, he noted, trucks that normally would be held back at
the division level are being pushed down into the brigade.
The $2.1 billion increase should cover the additional trucks needed
for the modular brigades, said Army Col. Robert Groller, program
manager for tactical wheeled vehicles. “Modularity calls for
a lot more trucks per unit,” he told National Defense. Some
units will get 80 additional heavy cargo trucks, and most units
will get more Humvees.
Meanwhile, officials expect that the Army’s tactical wheeled
vehicle strategy will be adjusted, as soldiers in Iraq develop new
tactics for running convoys, and new techniques for protecting vehicles
from roadside bombs and rocket attacks.
“The strategy will evolve,” said Lt. Gen. Claude V.
Christianson, Army deputy chief of staff for logistics. “I’m
hoping that, by the spring, we’ll have a very clear picture
on tactical wheeled vehicles on exactly what our mix will be,”
he told reporters.
He predicts that, for example, the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet
will see the addition of new types of trucks that soldiers are testing
in Iraq. “We now have vehicles in Iraq that are not in the
inventory,” Christianson said.
During the next several years, the Army will be evaluating new
truck designs under a project called FTTS, for future tactical truck
system. Truck manufacturers, such as Stewart & Stevenson, Oshkosh
and AM General, already have received contract awards for concept
The next phase of the program, to begin in about a year, will involve
real prototypes, which will be tested in June 2006, said Groller.
The technical specifications for FTTS will evolve over time, he
said, as officials gain an understanding of “what’s
technically possible and affordable.”
Cost is a major concern, because the Army wants these future trucks
to have advanced technologies, such as stealth coatings, lightweight
armor and hybrid-electric engines. The additional bells and whistles
could result in half-million dollar trucks, which the Army could
not afford, he stressed.
Geehan said a key feature in FTTS would be the truck’s ability
to rapidly move supplies in a combat zone. Trucks also need communications
devices, similar to those found today on combat vehicles, and sensors
that allow commanders to monitor convoys en route. “That’s
the next real revolution,” Geehan said. “It drives us
to trucks with movement-tracking systems, smart cab technologies
that replicate what UPS and FedEx drivers have … They know
where all the other vehicles are.”