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Defense Acquisitions: Improved Business Case Key for Future Combat System's Success

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The critical role played by U.S. ground combat forces is underscored today in Operation Iraqi Freedom. That the Army should ensure its forces are well equipped with the capabilities they will need in the coming years is unquestioned. Moreover, the top-level goals the Army has set for its future force seem inarguable to be as lethal and survivable as the current force, but significantly more sustainable and mobile. However, the Armys approach to meeting these needs embodied in the FCS and its complementary systems does raise questions. On the one hand, the FCS is the result of the Army leadership s taking a hard look at how it wants its forces to fight in the future. Army leadership has had the courage to break with tradition on FCS it would have likely been much easier to win support for successor vehicles to the Abrams and Bradley. On the other hand, FCS does not present a good business case for an acquisition program. It is necessary that a major new investment like FCS have a compelling, well thought-out concept, but this alone is not sufficient. FCS began product development prematurely in 2003, and today is a long way from having the level of knowledge it should have had before committing the high level of resources associated with a new product development effort. The elements of a sound business case firm requirements, mature technologies, a knowledge-based acquisition strategy, a realistic cost estimate, and sufficient funding are not yet present. FCS has all the markers for risks that would be difficult to accept for any single system. They are even more daunting in the case of FCS, not only because of their multiplicity, but because FCS represents a new concept of operations predicated on technological breakthroughs. Thus, technical problems, which accompany immaturity, not only pose traditional risks to cost, schedule, and performance, but also pose risks to the new fighting concepts envisioned by the Army. Summary

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  • Information Science
  • Economics and Cost Analysis

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