February 7, the American edition of The National Interest, published an article with the loud title "The Sobering Truth about Pentagon Failing Projects". The author of the material is Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis, a former US Army officer who previously held the position of commander of the American contingent in Afghanistan, and now works as a military analyst. D. Davis does not share the optimistic views of other military and political leadership of the country. The former officer devoted his article to past and current problems of the Pentagon.
At the beginning of his publication, D. Davis recalls the recent speech of US President Barack Obama. During his speech, the head of state named several reasons for the fact that the USA is the strongest country on the planet and will have a bright future. One of the main reasons for this, according to B. Obama, is the power of the armed forces. The President said that at present the US Army is the most powerful force in the entire history of humanity. After this statement, B. Obama’s speech was interrupted by stormy applause. D. Davis believes that a more careful study of some issues related to the combat readiness of the troops would lead to a less violent reaction to the words of the president.
According to D. Davis, the truth is that the United States is not as powerful and influential as is commonly believed. That is what his “sobering” article is devoted to.
The author recalls the reaction to the completion of Operation Desert Storm two and a half decades ago. The victory over Iraq and Saddam Hussein allowed the Americans to say that the army was finally able to get rid of the "Vietnamese syndrome." In addition, at this time, the United States felt like the only superpower in the world. Then it was not baseless bragging. The main competitors of the United States in the face of Moscow and Beijing have recognized their lag in military power. The Americans, in turn, were proud of the victory and optimistic about the future. Nonetheless, justified pride “mutated” with time and turned into unpleasant arrogance. Now such a transformation of opinions can be dangerous for the country. D. Davis believes that this situation is best illustrated by the unsuccessful attempts of the Pentagon to implement new projects.
There are various official studies that report problems in the development of new projects and the procurement of necessary products. There are violations in this area, as well as inefficient spending of funding. The scale of such problems is often rated as "alarming." However, a detailed study of the issue shows that the situation is much more serious and is already associated with risks to national security.
As one of the loudest failures of the American military in recent years, D. Davis cites the Future Combat System (FCS) project. In his opinion, the failure of this project had a negative impact on the security of the state, and for two reasons at once.
The author recalls that the FCS program started in the late nineties. It all started with the report of the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Eric Shinseki, which outlined the prospects for ground military equipment. By 2003, the preliminary work on the new program was completed, after which it was given official status and began full-fledged work. Work continued until 2009, when they were discontinued by the Minister of Defense due to the mass of unsolved problems. Thus, ten years of work were wasted. The United States simply lost time, which could be used to modernize the ground forces and maintain world leadership.
In addition to losing money, the closure of the FCS program led to a deterioration in the reputation of the United States. The Pentagon has shown its impotence in the creation of new technology, but other countries have been able to do without such problems. As a result, the gaping gap between the United States and third countries has narrowed considerably. A striking example of such a change in the situation - especially offensive for the United States - D. Davis considers the emergence of the Russian project "Armata", as well as the launch of mass production of this technology.
The Future Combat System project meant the creation of a “system of systems”. The basis of the project was to become a universal tracked chassis suitable for the construction of equipment for various purposes. It was planned to develop eight types of specialized equipment, including a tank, armored vehicles for infantry and other vehicles. The work on the FCS program lasted about ten years and “ate” about 20 billions of dollars, but yielded no results.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, Russian experts in just six years developed their own similar project. During this time, specialists from Russia carried out the design, built, tested and put in a series of modern "advanced" combat vehicles of several types. The result of the Russian program “Armata” was the emergence of a promising main tank T-14 and heavy infantry fighting vehicle T-15, built on the basis of a universal chassis.
New Russian models have a perfect reservation, modern weapons and ammunition, as well as equipped with appropriate fire control systems. According to D. Davis, the Russian T-14 tank is not inferior in survivability and firepower to the American Abrams family tanks.
Also, the author of The National Interest reminds that in the 1991 year, Abrams tanks showed their high potential in the fight against enemy tanks. It was demonstrated a great advantage over armored vehicles from other countries. However, over the years, this advantage has been lost.
D. Davis asks a serious question: how can the failure of Washington with the FCS program be explained in the light of the success of Moscow? The US military is gradually weakening compared to the Russian. The United States is ahead of Russia in terms of intellectual potential, economic power and industrial capabilities, but it has a big disadvantage of a different nature: self-deception based on arrogance.
The author believes that with the continuation of the implementation of the aggressive plans of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Europe, the day may come when the US ground forces will have to support NATO allies and fight with the Russian army. Thus, the restoration of military potential and lost advantage over other countries should begin now. In order for this to happen, according to D. Davis, the military and political leadership of the United States must, above all, pacify its excessive pride and assess the situation soberly. Otherwise, the military advantage of the American army over its main competitors may disappear altogether.
Daniel L. Davis raised a very important question. Indeed, at the moment, the US Army, according to several authoritative studies, is the most powerful in the world. However, other developed countries are not idle and are engaged in the modernization of their armed forces. As a result, the gap between the US and other states is gradually narrowing, and in some cases has already become dangerously small. Thus, every year the United States is becoming more and more difficult to defend the title of the most powerful military force on the planet, since Russia and China, they say, breathe in the back of their heads.
To preserve the existing advantage, it is necessary to continue the development of existing weapons and equipment, as well as to create new models. With this, the United States in recent years, there are serious problems. In addition to the Future Combat System program reviewed by D. Davis, it is also worth remembering the projects of other military equipment that either did not produce any results, like the project of the RAH-66 Comanche reconnaissance and attack helicopter, or reached service in the troops, but cost too much. A good example of the latter are the F-35 fighters, the cost of developing and building which is already approaching the level of one and a half trillion dollars.
Nevertheless, the article of The National Interest deals only with the FCS program, on which special hopes were placed in the context of the modernization of ground forces. The aim of this project was the development and introduction of a mass of new equipment and equipment intended for the ground forces. It was necessary to create new combat vehicles, communications and control equipment, equipment for soldiers, etc. By the end of 2000, the program faced a lot of various problems, because of which it was decided to close it, and use some of the developments in new projects.
By the time the FCS program was closed, American specialists had developed several promising combat vehicles. Moreover, some of them even managed to walk to the ground tests. So, self-propelled artillery XM1203 NLOS-C, shown in the illustration, was built in 2008 year and soon went to the landfill. However, in 2009, the project was frozen, and two years later they were finally closed due to the lack of real prospects. It was decided to abandon the XM1203 project, and use the existing developments when upgrading the M109 family self-propelled guns.
Because of the failure of the FCS program, the military and industry of the United States lost ten years and the 20 order of billions of dollars. A kind of compensation for these losses was the emergence of several new technologies, some of which have already been mastered and used in real projects. However, the time and money spent are disproportionately large for such a “compensation”. As a result, the opinion of D. Davis about the failure of the FCS program is fully substantiated and confirmed by real facts.
The failure of the American project is considered by D. Davis not by himself, but against the background of the successes of the Russian industry. Shortly after the cessation of work on the FCS, Russia began developing its own project for advanced armored vehicles. In just half a decade, we managed to develop a project, build several prototypes, test them, and then deploy mass production. Even taking into account the existing problems, the Armata project looks much more successful than the closed FCS, which can not fail to hit American pride.
According to Lt. Col. D. Davis, one of the main problems of American combat capability lies in the wrong attitude to their capabilities. After the events in Iraq in 1991, the United States began to be proud of its capabilities, which eventually led to their reassessment. Such a wrong attitude towards one’s own and others ’capabilities can have a detrimental effect on the potential of the troops and all national security.
Money and time spent on the creation of the FCS project and other unsuccessful developments cannot be returned anymore. Nevertheless, measures can and should be taken to avoid such problems in the future. An important aspect of the fight against such problems D. Davis considers the moral and ethical guidelines of the military and political leadership. The current leaders of the United States indulge in pride, which is clearly shown by the recent speech of B. Obama. However, according to the author of The National Interest, such an attitude toward one’s capabilities is one of those things that should be eliminated as soon as possible in the interests of national defense.
His article, Lt. Col. D. Davis, ends with advice on the correct assessment of their capabilities and the proper planning of the future development of the armed forces. At the same time, the author does not touch upon the theme of the prospects for such a proposal. Whether the current US leadership will listen to D. Davis's advice is unknown, but it can be assumed that it will not even know about it, since it does not follow all publications in the press. In addition, the advancement of ideas expressed is hampered by the fact that the B. Obama administration is actively promoting the idea of US superiority, despite all the existing problems, reducing the gap from other countries, etc.
The article "The Sobering Truth About Pentagon's Acquisition Failures":