The Future of Army’s “Future Combat Systems”

Fact:  The U.S. Army is currently in the midst of a multi-year, $6 billion software development program which it says “dwarfs Microsoft Windows.”

Analysis: The Washington Post did a long piece on the U.S. Army’s gargantuan Future Combat Systems program today, not overly critical but quite skeptical. 

Some highlights of the program itself, which has its own comprehensive site maintained by the Army: 

  • FCS is the “Big Kahuna” of Army modernization, full-on system-of-systems;
  • It’s a $200 billion program, called the most thorough modernization of the Army since WWII;
  • All depends on a massive software development effort led by Boeing; 
  • The S/W development cost alone is around $6 billion (H/W costs are much larger, for the actual weapons, tanks, etc.).

When I was serving at the Defense Intelligence Agency, I was aware that (a) everyone associated with FCS had their fingers crossed and eyes closed when talking about it; (b) everyone not associated with it used the same tone of voice about FCS as they used about FBI’s Virtual Case File and NSA’s Trailblazer – two well-known large-scale failed technology programs.  Many people who know more about FCS than I do consider it a pipe-dream (here’s a good Heritage Foundation backgrounder on the program).  Yet the program continues to spend billions and the Army is slogging on with it.

So here’s what I really think about it: Continue reading

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