When you hear “we need to increase military spending to support the troops” what do you think of?
Money going for body armor, armored vehicles, assault rifles and sidearms, helicopters, uniforms, various forms of advanced training?
All of us want to make sure our men and women in uniform have the tools they need to protect themselves and succeed in the missions they’re sent on. But what about when hundreds of billions of our hard-earned tax dollars go to something like Future Combat Systems?:
The Army’s mammoth Future Combat Systems push is “arguably the most complex” modernization project the Defense Department has ever pursued, according to the Government Accountability Office’s Paul Francis.
So complex, in fact, that the Army figured it couldn’t pull off FCS by itself. The service just didn’t have the know-how to manage something as big, as ambitious as remaking just about everything in its inventory — tanks, artillery, drones, you name it — and then building a brand new, absolutely titanic operating system and set of wireless networks, to tie it all together. Forget a traditional defense contract; the Army needed an industrial partner, instead — some company that could watch over the zillions of moving parts needed to make FCS work. Eventually, the service settled on Boeing as that partner, or “Lead Systems Integrator,” in Pentagonese.
At first, it sounded like a good idea. But the result was that the contractor basically wound up policing itself, and the military wound up spending lots of its time playing nice with its new partner – rather than cracking the whip.
The outcome has been less than impressive. In 2003, when the LSI contract officially kicked off, Future Combat was meant to be a $92 billion effort; today, that figures stands at $200 billion, minimum — and maybe more than $230..
The idea was to modernize the Army – to create a new, faster, lighter, more high-tech fighting force for the 21st century. But that’s not how it’s turned out: