New Armed Aerial Scout, Ground Combat Vehicle? Maybe, Maybe Not, Says Army

By Stew Magnuson

These are tough times for military contractors anticipating new Army hardware programs.

When it comes to two of the most highly anticipated programs, the armed aerial scout helicopter and the ground combat vehicle, there are no guarantees that they will get underway anytime in the near future, a senior Army acquisition official said Oct. 22.

"The reason why we are lurching is because our budget is lurching," Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology and the service's acquisition executive, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army annual conference.

The complaints from vehicle and rotary wing aircraft industries is that these two programs seem to start, stop, pause for studies, start and then stop again. They also both come from the ashes of failed acquisition programs that date back a decade or more. There have been two attempts to replace the Kiowa Warrior helicopter -- the Comanche and the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. The idea for a new ground combat vehicle to replace the Bradley emerged after the failed Future Combat Systems program.

Despite these long histories, Shyu laid the blame on the current fiscal crisis.

"I wish I had budget stability, therefore I can predict what the future is going to look like. ... But that is the situation we are in today. It's [continuing resolutions], plus sequestration, plus furloughs, plus government shutdown."

She likened it to a "perfect storm" that has covered the entire nation. She simply can't predict what is going to happen under these circumstances.

Delaying the start of new programs, stretching them out, or termination "are the only knobs we can turn," she said.

Sequestration, if that continues, affects every single acquisition program because it requires across-the-board cuts. Continuing resolutions force her to spend money at lower levels, she said.

She is forced to ask the Army now what it is willing to sacrifice. "This is not a decision we make lightly. We make this because we are in this fiscal morass."

Starting any new program in this fiscal environment is difficult because, if it moves forward, it means upgrades to existing programs go to "zero," she said. "That is the trade space we are in."

Shyu repeatedly declined to give a definitive answer on the future of the ground combat vehicle or armed aerial scout. She could not rule out further delays or canceling the helicopter for the time being.

"We are looking at the options. We are going to delay it, or we are going to have to terminate it, or we are going to continue on and finish a certain phase," she said.

Even if we don't continue a program, it doesn't mean we don't need the capability anymore. ... It means I can't afford it anymore. We have to go to belt tightening."

Topics: Aviation, Rotary Wing, Combat Vehicles, Defense Department, DOD Budget, Procurement, Defense Department

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