The Army's Transformation Programs and Possible Alternatives

June 2, 2009

The near- and long-term implications of the Modularity Initiative and the Future Combat Systems (FCS) programs, which would change how the Army is organized and equipped, are examined in a CBO studyreleased today. Also explored in thestudy are three alternatives for modernizing the Armys combat forces using modified versions of the FCS program.

Before changes were announced in April by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the FCS program would have, among other things, replaced the Armys heavy tracked armored vehicles developed in the 1960s and 1970s with lighter and more mobile combat vehicles that would be equally as survivable. The Modularity Initiative would reorganize the Armys warfighting forces from divisions containing 12,000 to 17,000 or more soldiers to a larger number of smaller, interchangeable, and independent teams of 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers. Army leaders have contended that the FCS program and Modularity Initiative would yield an Army that could respond to crises around the world more quickly and that would be more mobile and technically sophisticatedand, hence, more effectiveonce it arrived.

CBOs analysis of the Modularity Initiative shows that the program has cost more and yielded fewer benefits than were originally estimated:

  • The Army has had to add personnel to support the additional units;
  • The planned increases in personnel are unlikely to be sufficient to fully support the force structure of 76 brigade combat teams (BCTs) that was planned at the end of 2008;
  • Although modular BCTs might require less time to prepare to respond to an overseas crisis than their premodular predecessors, they require roughly the same amount of time to transport their equipment overseas; and
  • The costs to carry out the initiative have grown beyond the initial estimate of $21 billion and may total more than $140 billion through 2013.

CBOs analysis also reaches the following conclusions concerning the Armys FCS program included in the previous Administrations 2009 plan and associated modernization programs:

  • The FCS program would have fielded a full set of equipment to less than 20 percent of the Armys BCTs and would not have been completed until 2030.
  • Although one of the main goals of the FCS program was to speed the movement of Army combat units overseas, replacing the current armored vehicles with FCS manned vehicles would not have significantly reduced transportation times.
  • According to the Armys estimates, the annual costs of the FCS program and its associated Spin-Out program could have approached $10 billion at their peak, an expenditure that could have been difficult to afford given other demands on the Armys budget.
  • Alternative approaches to introducing FCS technologies into the Armys combat unitsapproaches that would eliminate all or part of the programs ground vehicles while retaining its communications network and, in some cases, its components with sensors to detect enemy troops and their movementwould yield annual savings of $3 billion to $8 billion in the cost of FCS-related programs included in the previous Administrations 2009 plan.
  • Because FCS manned vehicles would not have replaced the armored combat vehicles in all of the Armys BCTs, additional annual funding of $2 billion to $4 billion could have been required over the next 20 years to modernize vehicles that the Army will retain indefinitely.

In April, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recommended changes to these programs, including:

  • Reducing the active Armys goal for combat units by 2013 from 48 BCTs to 45 brigade combat teams, and
  • Canceling the manned vehicle portion of the FCS program and accelerating the spin-out of FCS technologies to all of the Armys brigade combat teams, rather than just infantry brigades.
    Although the administrations 2010 request was submitted shortly before CBO published this report, that request did not contain sufficient programmatic details to allow CBO to conduct a complete reassessment of either the revised Modularity Initiative or the FCS program.

Frances M. Lussier of CBOs National Security Division prepared the paper. When not performing her CBO duties, Fran is an accomplished choral singer and amateur ornithologist.