Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Lessons from the Army’s Future Combat Systems Program

Lessons from the Army’s Future Combat Systems Program

Christopher G. Pernin
Elliot Axelband
Jeffrey A. Drezner
Brian B. Dille
John Gordon
Bruce J. Held
K. Scott McMahon
Walter L. Perry
Christopher Rizzi
Akhil R. Shah
Peter A. Wilson
Jerry M. Sollinger
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 372
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Lessons from the Army’s Future Combat Systems Program
    Book Description:

    The U.S. Army’s Future Combat Systems program aimed to field an ambitious system of systems, with novel technologies integrated via an advanced wireless network. The largest and most ambitious planned acquisition program in the Army’s history, it was cancelled in 2009, and some of its efforts transitioned to follow-on programs. This report documents the program’s complex history and draws lessons from its experiences.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-7969-5
    Subjects: Technology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xvii-xxx)

    The Future Combat Systems (FCS) was the largest and most ambitious planned acquisition program in the Army’s history. It called for fielding not just one system but an entire suite of systems, all organized into a brigade structure that was envisioned to operate under an entirely new (but not yet fully developed) doctrine while integrated by a wireless network. The scope and reach of the program was remarkable and for a number of years defined the modernization effort of the Army.

    In 2009 the FCS program was cancelled. Although some of its components have been transferred to other programs, FCS...

  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxxi-xxxii)
  8. Acronyms
    (pp. xxxiii-xlii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The Army’s Future Combat Systems (FCS) acquisition program was envisioned to revolutionize the way the Army fights and replace existing combat units with interconnected, integrated assets linked by a central communications network. At about $200B, FCS was the largest acquisition program ever attempted by the Army, and it represented a significant leap forward in terms of technology, program concept, industry interaction, and acquisition approach. FCS would field entire brigades outfitted with new, lighter, more mobile technologies protected by improved sensors and superior situational awareness.

    In a speech at the annual Association of the United States Army (AUSA) symposium on October...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Background of the Future Combat Systems Program
    (pp. 5-20)

    This chapter examines how the FCS program got its start, with emphasis on key strategic, operational, and technological concepts and assumptions that were the basis of the program. It begins by analyzing the imperatives and strategic context that drove the Army to consider a sweeping change in its doctrine and force structure.

    Recognizing the truth behind the adage, “hindsight is always 20/20,” we conclude with a short list of lessons that the Army may consider when moving forward with future concepts. It then turns to the assumptions that underpinned the FCS program. Always critical to any major acquisition program, these...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Cost, Schedule, and Performance of the FCS Program over Time
    (pp. 21-50)

    The previous chapter chronicled the early history of the FCS, illustrating some of the key influences that shaped its vision and the concepts that flowed from that vision. This chapter turns to the program itself. It shows how the program proceeded, including some major restructuring that occurred. It also details the history of scheduling and associated costs of the FCS program from inception to cancellation. Our conclusion provides a foundation for the chapters focused specifically on requirements generation and evolution, and on program management and contracts.

    The vision for the FCS program was predicated on, among many other capabilities, a...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR How the Army Generated Requirements for the Future Combat Systems
    (pp. 51-94)

    The prior chapter provided an overview of the major events of the FCS program, from concept to cancellation. This chapter describes how the Army generated the requirements for the FCS and how they developed over time. The requirements story is relatively complex. To do it full justice, we have divided the discussion into two chapters, this one and the one that follows. Each chapter, however, presents conclusions and lessons that are relevant to the material discussed in the chapter.

    This chapter starts from the beginning of the process, tracing concepts and requirements from the Army’s original vision for FCS. It...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE The Evolution and Adjustment of Requirements After Milestone B
    (pp. 95-118)

    This chapter presents the second half of the requirements story. It resembles the first in that it illustrates the danger of developing overly ambitious operational concepts that are underpinned by difficult technologies. This chapter explores how the 19-ton essential combat configuration weight limit for MGVs,¹ intended to enable C-130 transportability, was quickly identified as impossible but never officially changed. This chapter also examines the ways in which the FCS program failed to adapt to the rising IED threat and to the larger challenge of a counterinsurgency.

    After Milestone B, as engineers grappled with how to pack hundreds of required capabilities...

  14. CHAPTER SIX FCS Program Management
    (pp. 119-166)

    This chapter describes the program management strategy and structure, and certain essential processes that the Army and its industry contractors adopted to manage the FCS effort. It focuses on those elements of program management that program staff identified as key drivers of the FCS approach to program execution. The chapter presents findings—based largely on the experiences of key program staff, and a critical look at official documentation available to the study team—on how the FCS program management approach was implemented in practice. As is the case with the other chapters, it ends with conclusions and lessons.

    Program management...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Contracts
    (pp. 167-190)

    This chapter discusses the way in which FCS contracting managers needed to modify traditional measures and procedures to meet specific FCS demands, and how the modifications themselves sometimes fostered program instability. It discusses, first, the contracts in the design concepts phase and the flexibility that was required at that point in the program. It then turns to the contract issues in the concept and technology development phases and the issues with the management structure. Finally, it describes the incentive structure in the Systems Development and Demonstration phase and the effectiveness of the incentives.

    When the FCS program was initiated in...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Technology Choices and Development in FCS
    (pp. 191-246)

    Previous chapters have considered FCS from a requirements, program management, and contract perspective. FCS technologies provided the materiel solution for Army modernization embodied by the Objective Force,¹ requiring simultaneous development of several novel technologies. This chapter explores several aspects of the technologies themselves as well as the planning and execution of the technology development process. It follows the critical technologies over time, and describes a few of the more revolutionary expectations included in the FCS program.

    The breadth of different critical technologies necessitated solutions from a community of developers external to the program, including several S&T organizations and complementary programs....

  17. CHAPTER NINE Summary
    (pp. 247-250)

    The cancellation of the Army’s largest-ever systems development and its most expensive program termination during the past 20 years sent a shock wave across the entire defense acquisition community and raised doubts about the ability of any service to carry out such a large and complex program. The FCS program has been the subject of a number of postmortems, many quite negative. This report provides a select history of the program, while highlighting both positive innovations and several reasons for its ultimate failure.

    The report included four main areas of discussion. First, it described the leadup to the FCS program...

  18. APPENDIX A Select Interviewees for This Study
    (pp. 251-252)
  19. APPENDIX B Congressional Decrements and Scrutiny
    (pp. 253-260)
  20. APPENDIX C FCS Requirements Data and Methodology
    (pp. 261-262)
  21. APPENDIX D Selected Technology Transfer Agreements Between PM FCS and Army S&T
    (pp. 263-268)
  22. APPENDIX E Where the FCS Systems Are Today
    (pp. 269-304)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-330)