Battlefield Automation:

Performance Uncertainties Are Likely When Army Fields Its First Digitized Division

NSIAD-99-150: Published: Jul 27, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 1999.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's progress toward its goal of fielding a digitized division by the end of 2000, focusing on: (1) the high-priority systems needed to accomplish the digitization fielding goal; (2) the acquisition status of these high-priority systems; and (3) any performance uncertainties that could confront the Army after its first digitized division is fielded.

GAO noted that: (1) the Army's first digitized division will be the 4th Infantry Division; (2) while the Army's overall digitization initiative involves over 100 systems, its December 2000 digitization goal is to field 16 high-priority systems to 3 of the division's 4 brigades; (3) these 16 systems can be described as command, control, and communications systems, the majority of which will support decision-making by commanders located in tactical operations centers at battalion, brigade, division, and corps levels; (4) one system represents an entirely new capability that is intended to accomplish an important digitization objective of sharing battlefield information with the thousands of soldiers operating outside tactical operations centers; (5) this system is the Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system and is the critical component of the digitization initiative; (6) fielding of the Forward Area Air Defense Command, Control, and Intelligence system, with the first digitized division objective software and upgraded hardware, was completed in fiscal year (FY) 1998; (7) the delivery of the Global Broadcast Service Transportable Ground Receive Suite terminals was delayed because the contractor's initial design required too many terminal transit cases; (8) although the high-priority systems are being acquired independently of each other, the Army is coordinating and synchronizing individual fielding schedules to enable it to meet its goal of fielding the first digitized division by December 2000; (9) there are four key performance uncertainties that the Army will confront when the division is fielded at the end of 2000; (10) because the Army has recently restructured the system's test and evaluation program, a determination of the operational effectiveness and suitability of FBCB2 will be unknown; (11) the operational performance of other fielded systems may be unknown because the results of scheduled operational tests will not be complete by December 2000; (12) the capability of automated sharing of Army Tactical Command and Control System data within tactical operations centers will not have been conclusively demonstrated; (13) insight into the resolution of this issue is not likely to occur before April 2001 when a digitized brigade participates in an exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California; and (14) it will be uncertain whether digitization, with the expected interoperability of related information systems, has achieved the expected increases in lethality, survivability, and tempo of operations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The FBCB2 program is scheduled for a Low-Rate Initial Production decision in December 1999. Following the Army System Acquisition Review Council decision, the FBCB2 Overarching Integrated Product Team will review the program and advise the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and technology regarding accepting the Army's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To optimize the multi-billion dollar investment needed to digitize all Army units, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to establish schedules and procurement quantities that minimize the risks associated with fielding FBCB2 without the benefits of operational testing by seizing on the opportunity provided by the reassessment of the FBCB2 acquisition strategy.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence reported that the FBCB2 acquisition strategy was revised and expanded to include additional test and evaluation events. The revision was undertaken to address congressional and DOD concerns. The revised strategy was approved by the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation on June 30, 1999 and represents DOD and Army consensus on an accepted methodology among material developers, users, testers, and those providing oversight within DOD to test and evaluate the operational suitability and effectiveness of FBCB2. Equally, it represents DOD and Army agreement on a methodology to evaluate force effectiveness aspects of the digital hypothesis: lethality, survivability, and tempo.

    Recommendation: To optimize the multi-billion dollar investment needed to digitize all Army units, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Army to develop a plan defining when and how the first digitized division will validate that digitization has enabled the high-priority systems to interoperate effectively so that expected increases in lethality, survivability, and tempo of operations have been achieved. The plan should provide for validation to be completed before the digitization is extended to units beyond the first digitized division.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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