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FCS Is Key to Army Modernization

Many military platforms have catchy names such as Raptor and Tomcat that sound more like school mascots than weapons systems. The Army, however, has selected the utilitarian title of Future Combat Systems for what is an innovative and exciting new program being tested by the soldiers of today to serve the soldiers of today and tomorrow.

FCS: What’s in a Name? With the Army’s FCS program, it cuts to the core of the matter.

Army: FCS is the cornerstone of Army modernization, crafted to deal with the land warfare threats of future battlefields.

Future: Many of the soldiers who will be using the FCS equipment and networks will not join the Army for another 10 years.

Combat: FCS will provide the lethal weapons our soldiers will need to bring precision fire to our enemies.

Systems: The program will tie together all of the FCS equipment into a single networked system.

But the name does not fully represent the program. It is not just an Army program; FCS will allow the Army to interact with all the players in the joint battle space. It will not just serve the soldiers of tomorrow; technologies are being built, tested and used today. FCS is not just a weapon to deliver fire, but a network of technologies for all levels of engagement, from direct combat to counterinsurgency to peacekeeping. Finally, the construct of FCS does not just create a network; it is a tool to empower each individual soldier.

Modernization Benefits Soldiers of Today and Tomorrow. There is a misunderstanding among people who don’t closely follow Army programs. FCS is not a futuristic scheme consisting solely of PowerPoint slides and mock-ups of planned vehicles. FCS develops today’s and tomorrow’s technology and combines this new equipment into a network so that the effectiveness of these innovative items is multiplied by linking them together seamlessly across the entire battle space.

The most critical piece of the FCS network is the soldier who will use the weapons system. Because the Army soldier is at the center of FCS development, the Army has established an Army Evaluation Task Force. The AETF has been designated the test organization that will help integrate FCS into Army doctrine and will be the first FCS brigade combat team. Under the command of Brig. Gen. James Terry, the unit already is staffed by more than 700 soldiers, most of whom have combat experience. This unit, the 5th Brigade of the 1st Armored Division, working with the Army’s Future Force Integration Directorate, currently is conducting hands-on testing of FCS equipment and the network leading up to a limited user test to be conducted at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range in July 2008.

Meeting the Challenges of Today and Tomorrow. Even as the development and testing of the system continues across the country, here in Washington, D.C., Congress and the Pentagon are working to balance the needs of our fighting forces. While there is strong support on Capitol Hill and in the Department of Defense for the Army’s modernization plans, ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are having an impact on funding for all Army programs.

Funding challenges facing the Army include unfunded requirements to repair, revitalize and replace equipment used in combat operations, the need to restore depleted prepositioned stocks used to fill critical wartime needs, and meeting a more than $2 billion deficit in equipment for the Army National Guard and Reserve. In addition to those needs, the Army has many near-term equipment needs for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, including procurement of more than 100,000 radios and 17,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles.

The Army budget, for both war-related spending and day-to-day operations, is a work in progress. But while we respond to the immediate needs of soldiers in the field, it is critical that we continue our investment for future war fighters, many of whom have not even begun their military service. While FCS is critical to the Army’s future fighting force, it also is important for the soldiers on today’s battlefield. Technologies from the first spin-out currently are being tested in the field, and they will benefit our soldiers in the near term. We owe the men and women who stand in defense of our nation nothing less than equipment that is commensurate with the sacrifices we call upon them to make in defense of our nation, and FCS will allow our soldiers to accomplish their mission and come home safely today, tomorrow and for years to come.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) is a member of the Armed Services Committee.

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