Boeing Co. is getting a larger role in managing the Army's modernization effort, the Future Combat System, as part of a restructuring of the program, company and military officials said yesterday.
Last month the Army announced it is restructuring the program, which aims to connect soldiers to a wireless network that assists them in battlefield decisions. Under the new plan, the Army is delaying deployment of the first fully modernized unit for two years, to 2014, and testing and implementing some of the technology sooner than originally scheduled.
As part of the restructuring, Chicago-based Boeing, which manages the program, is now responsible for accelerating the deployment of the technology, company and Army officials said. "It's important because we'll have some of these technologies to the current forces sooner," said Ignacio Cardenas, Army director of acquisition for the Future Combat System.
As "lead systems integrators" -- or program managers -- Boeing and Science Applications International Corp., which is also helping manage the project, already had more authority than normal under typical Pentagon contracts.
The size of Boeing's $14.8 billion contract to develop the program was also increased by $6 billion as part of the program overhaul. Overall, the Future Combat System, which will replace the current fleet of ground vehicles with a mix of high-tech manned and unmanned ground and aerial vehicles, is expected to cost more than $110 billion, making it one of the Pentagon's largest programs.
The massive modernization effort has been dogged by questions about its complexity and the pace of progress on the futuristic drones and ground vehicles. As originally structured, the program had only a 28 percent chance of success, Army officials have acknowledged.
The cost increase will cover several changes to the program, including adding an armed unmanned robotic vehicle, a recovery and maintenance vehicle, two classes of unmanned aerial vehicles and an intelligent munitions system, also known as a "smart mine," which a soldier could turn on and off remotely or program to deactivate in 30 days.