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Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Moving Forward, Despite Shutdown and Budget Uncertainty
By Dan Parsons

When the federal government shut down for two weeks and the Army was forced to furlough a healthy portion of its civilian workforce, testing on the service’s new light truck was abruptly halted.

Continuing resolutions, uncertain Pentagon budget scenarios, furloughs, sequestration and the government shutdown have all taken their toll on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, Project Manager Col. John Cavedo said 
at the Association of the United States Army’s annual exposition in Washington, D.C.

“Despite all that, we still have the train on the tracks,” Cavedo said. “We’ve got to come out of this CR in the January timeframe in order to keep that train on its tracks.”

JLTV tests are being funded with prior-year reserves, he said.

Kevin Fahey the Army’s program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said the lost work could be made up within a couple of weeks, but JLTV becomes less stable if the government continues to operate under a continuing resolution.

“When the government shuts down and you get furloughs, the light goes out immediately. We turn it off and all the people are gone in four hours,” Cavedo said. “Starting back up has been a very difficult proposition.”

“Some of the test sites didn’t all go down at the same time and they sure as heck didn’t all come back up at the same time.”

At least one site remained closed Oct. 22. Once the test sites are back up and operational, work will begin immediately, Fahey said. Whether it will continue past January when the current continuing resolution expires is less certain, he said.

“The hardest part of what we’re going through is not knowing,” Fahey said. “Last week was extremely stressful for all of us. Having to send people home was hard. And now we are in a CR until early next year.”

If a budget is not approved, JLTV will be affected, he said.

Fahey said JLTV was a simple acquisition program that had avoided the typical pitfalls of large, expensive procurement efforts. The devil is in the dollars, he said.

“JLTV … has basically been executed to plan,” Fahey said. “Our challenges have had nothing to do with the program. It has had everything to do with the budget.

Engineering and manufacturing development contracts were awarded to Lockheed Martin, Oshkosh Defense and AM General last year. Each company has delivered 22 EMD prototypes for the current battery of field tests. The Army is expected to make a source selection based on the outcome of those tests and take delivery in July 2015.

The Army plans to buy 49,000 JLTVs, and the Marine Corps 5,500. Both of those numbers are stable, officials said.

Army leaders consider force structure and end strength as their priority, given current and future austerity, Cavedo said. When they arrive at an appropriate number of soldiers for the future force, they will then size vehicle fleets to match that number.

Fortunately for the JLTV program, any reduction in the light tactical vehicle fleet will involve old Humvees rather than new trucks. Reductions to match force structure will come at the cost of 30-year-old Humvees.

“We’re not replacing all of our Humvees. ... There will be less Humvees in the force, [but we are] not buying less JLTVs,” Fahey said.

Though Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos has prioritized buying a new amphibious combat vehicle over JLTV, the procurement plans are not parallel and therefore are unlikely to conflict, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael Burks, JLTV program manager.

Army and industry officials have been worried that the Marine Corps modernization  needs and constrained budgets would force the service to back out of its commitment to JLTV.

“We are in,” he said of the Marine Corps' commitment to JLTV. “ACV is a service defining capability as currently stated, but JLTV and ACV do not overlap. That makes this the right time for JLTV for the Marine Corps.”

Army officials at AUSA have been candid about the pervasive impact of ongoing fiscal austerity. Both Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, have said it is unrealistic to think any program is immune from deep cuts, if not outright cancellation.

Cavedo acknowledged future challenges, but was inclined to be positive about JLTV.

“Some really hard decisions will have to be made. I hope, from where I sit, that the hard decision is to keep JLTV on track,” Cavedo said.

Follow National Defense throughout the week for continued AUSA 2013 coverage.

Photo Credit: Army, Three prototypes for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are undergoing testing. The AM General Prototype is on the left, Oshkosh JLTV in the center, and the Lockheed Martin prototype is on the right.


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