TACTICAL WHEELED VEHICLES
JUST IN: Report: Army Doing Poor Job Communicating its Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Needs
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Quanesha BarnetThe Army could leverage the burgeoning U.S. truck market for its tactical wheeled vehicle needs if it could do a better job of communicating with manufacturers, a Government Accountability Office report released July 15 said.
“The Army does not always communicate information about future plans in a coordinated manner or provide a consistent message to industry,” the report titled: “Tactical Wheeled Vehicles: Army Should Routinely Update Strategy and Improve Communication with Industry.”
GAO investigators spoke with company officials and trade associations and found a good deal of frustration on the part of executives. The U.S. truck industry is flourishing, the report noted, but many manufacturers are not participating in Army vehicle programs. The service is losing out on increased competition as well as innovative technologies, GAO added.
“Leveraging additional companies’ commercial technology advancements could facilitate competition or potentially reduce the cost of the vehicles the Army needs as well as the cost of developing new capabilities,” the report stated.
For example, companies spent their own funds to develop capabilities and prepare for submitting an offer after listening to Army requirements. When the service later chose not to pursue new capabilities, the companies lost their investments and thus were less likely to be involved in future efforts, the report said.
The Army also has not updated its tactical wheeled vehicle strategy since 2014, executives noted, which makes it hard to know where the service is heading, the report stated.
The Army is developing a new tactical wheeled vehicle strategy for 2022 to guide decisions, but the strategy will not capture all relevant initiatives for determining its needs, GAO found. To inform its 2022 strategy, the Army is first conducting a study — set to be released in July — to identify the capabilities and requirements needed for the vehicles in multi-domain operations, which differ from the counterterrorism missions of the past.
The service will issue its new tactical wheeled vehicle strategy in fiscal year 2022, which will not account for all relevant initiatives that could help with planning for future vehicles, GAO found. One example is an infantry brigade combat team study that will have a pronounced effect on the number and types of vehicles recommended for these teams, GAO found. It’s unclear whether that study will be completed in time to help inform the vehicle study, the watchdog added.
Also, the Army is researching electrification — such as next-generation ion batteries with advanced power storage capacity — for use within the truck fleet. The effect of research-and-development efforts on the number and types of vehicles in the fleet will not be fully known until projects are completed and further analysis can be performed, GAO found.
“Some initiatives have been completed, some are still in progress, and some do not have a clear end date,” the report stated.
Commercial truck manufacturers were also reluctant to participate in Army programs, listing well-known complaints about working on government contracts. The process is too slow and the federal regulations too burdensome with long development timelines making some technology already obsolete by the time the trucks reach the field, they said.
Meanwhile, there is no Army directive, policy, or guidance calling for the service to routinely update the results of tactical wheeled vehicle studies or strategies.
GAO made two recommendations: The secretary of the Army should direct the appropriate offices within the service to routinely update its tactical wheeled vehicle strategy to account for evolving information and circumstances.
Also, the secretary should direct the appropriate offices within the Army to better coordinate external communication with industry to assure their assessment of needs for tactical wheeled vehicles are consistently communicated.
The Army in the report concurred with both suggestions.