By LANCE M. BACON
Though long-touted as a “must have” for the future US Army, the Ground Combat Vehicle is all but canceled.
The 2014 omnibus spending bill, passed by the House on Wednesday, provides what could be the final nail in the coffin.
The Army had requested $592 million for the program in fiscal 2014. But lawmakers gave only $100 million — essentially enough to start closing shop.
Army Times reported in August that the program was facing a major delay or cancellation.
The Army, driven by the findings of its Unified Quest exercises in late 2013, said it plans to shrink squads and brigades. The Army long argued for the GCV because it can carry an entire squad. The Bradley carries seven soldiers. Nine soldiers comprise the current Army squad.
Squads aren’t the only things being cut. Funding also is taking a big hit, and the Army will spend more than 80 percent of its combat vehicle modernization budget on GCV over the next five years. The program comes in at least $29 billion without overruns, setbacks and other problems these programs tend to face. Some estimates place the cost as high as $34 billion.
An April 17 Congressional Research Service report raised significant questions about the cost and need for the next-generation combat troop carrier. This comes on the heels of an April 2013 Congressional Budget Office analysis that recommended the Army replace the $29 billion program with more Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles or foreign vehicles.
GCV’s size was a hot topic, as well. BAE Systems’ GCV tips the scales at a whopping 70 tons, for example. This matches the enhanced M1A2 tank, making it the world’s heaviest infantry fighting vehicle. Much of its weight comes from multiple armor packages that rest on a steel core hull to provide maximum protection. But Army leadership said in November it wants to use emerging (undeveloped) technologies to ensure the heaviest vehicles come in at 30 tons. That is the optimal size for sustainment and operations in the heavily urbanized environments that lay ahead, officials said.