Recently Secretary of Defense Robert Gates took the military to task for investing hundreds of billions of dollars in imaginary future wars instead of focusing on the fights we’re already in. Today Army Lieutenant General Stephen Speakes, the top programs officer, spoke to bloggers about the service’s $200-billion Future Combat Systems family of networked robots and hybrid vehicles, a program that has come under Congressional scrutiny for cost and performance reasons. He insisted FCS was tailored for today’s wars:
For example, right now if you take a look at 20,000 up-armored Humvees that are in theater today, virtually every one of them has FRAG Kit 5. FRAG Kit 5 is the precursor armor technology that we’re going to use on the [FCS] manned ground vehicles. When you take a look right now at the soldier who is using a robot to disarm an IED, they’re using one of the primitive robots that is a part of our capability in Future Combat Systems. The first point is the Army will not rest. If we have a capability that is needed in combat, we’re not standing on ceremony; we’re getting it out in the field as fast as we can. …
We fully understand and are adhering to Secretary Gates’s guidance. What he said was don’t get “nextwar-itis.” You be focused on making sure that the capabilities you’re fielding have a direct relationship and relevance to this fight. And our answer is,when you take a look at what FCS is delivering today in combat, whether it’s the UAV, whether it’s the robot, or it’s the promise of the common ground vehicle,we think everything we’re doing in FCS has a direct relationship to what soldiers in combat need today.
But the biggest and most expensive part of FCS is the new hybrid-electric manned ground vehicles (prototype pictured), which won’t enter service until after 2013. And even they could be accelerated by five years, the FCS vehicles are half as heavy as current vehicles, and therefore twice as vulnerable to IEDs, rockets and mines. How in the world are these relevant to Iraq and Afghanistan?