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The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Program Battles Uncertainties

In the midst of a tidal wave of budget cuts, furloughs, sequestration, continuing resolutions, ongoing force structure changes, and a recently ended government shutdown, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program has remained relatively unscathed. The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps have both reaffirmed their commitment to buying the same amount of JLTVs that they initially promised. The Army is still planning to acquire 49,000 JLTVs, while the Marine Corps is looking at acquiring 5,500. Speaking during a press conference at the 2013 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 22, Col. John Cavedo, manager of the Joint Program Office for the JLTV, Lt. Col. Mike Burks, deputy manager of the Joint Program Office for the JLTV, and Kevin Fahey, Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support, all sounded optimistic notes about the JLTV program even the in the midst of uncertainty.

“We’re lurching ahead with deciding which programs stay, are postponed, canceled or not started because our budget is lurching.”

The Army’s commitment to the JLTV is unique in that other acquisition programs are at the mercy of tightening budgets. At another AUSA press conference on Oct. 22, Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and Gen. Dennis Via, commander, Army Materiel Command, seemed to hint that programs such as the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) and Armed Aerial Scout (AAS) might be at risk. “We’re lurching ahead with deciding which programs stay, are postponed, canceled or not started because our budget is lurching,” said Shyu.

AM General JLTV

AM General’s JLTV prototype. The JLTV program has so far managed to weather budget uncertainty, but there are still potential obstacles in the way. AM General photo

Budget cuts and sequestration have had a peripheral impact on the JLTV program. The closure of BAE Systems’ Sealy, Texas, plant due to the economic climate in the defense industry, for example, means Lockheed Martin will have to produce JLTVs in its Camden, Ark., plant should the company win the contract. “Everybody has been on schedule or ahead of schedule,” said Fahey. The uncertainty has had an impact, though. “The perturbations we’ve had have all been driven by budget and continuing resolution authority. The hardest part of what we are going through is not knowing,” emphasized Fahey.

Force structure changes have not affected the JLTV. “Reductions to match the force structure would come at a reduced number of 30-year-old Humvees,” said Cavedo. The same can be said on the Marine Corps’ end. “Let me be clear on the front of Marine Corps commitment to JLTV: We are in,” said Burks. “Right now, in the current conversation, in the context of the size the Marine Corps is looking at, 5,500 JLTVs is good enough to meet deployed commanders critical mission needs in the Marine Corps’ most dangerous combat mission profiles,” Burks added.

“The perturbations we’ve had have all been driven by budget and continuing resolution authority. The hardest part of what we are going through is not knowing.”

The ongoing JLTV testing was affected by the government shutdown, however, in a unique way. The three JLTV competitors, Oshkosh Defense, Lockheed Martin, and AM General, each delivered 22 of their JLTV prototypes along with six trailers in August so that JLTV testing could begin at sites across the country. Even though prior-year funding was available for JLTV testing to continue, the funding didn’t cover the operating costs for the sites where the testing was taking place. The result was that testing came to a halt during the 16-day shutdown. “The proving ground was basically shut down,” said Fahey.

After the shutdown ended on Oct. 17, testing has been slow to restart. “Starting back up has been a very difficult proposition,” Fahey said. That puts the JLTV slightly behind, but hasn’t kept anyone up at night given the 14 months of planned JLTV testing. “We are behind our current ideal plan, but that doesn’t mean we are behind our macro schedule,” Fahey said. The JLTV program office is examining how to get back on schedule during the remaining 9 months of testing. “We are pretty confident we can do that,” added Fahey.

Lockheed Martin JLTV

A Lockheed Martin JLTV variant undergoes testing with its trailer. All three JLTV entrants delivered 22 vehicles and six trailers for testing in August. That testing came to a halt due to the government shutdown, but has since been restarted. Lockheed Martin photo

The JLTV program is at the mercy of continuing resolutions. Funding for the JLTV program, via a continuing resolution that ends in early 2014, means that a budget decision will need to be made by the third quarter of the fiscal year. “The JLTV is one of those programs where if we don’t get a budget approved it will impact the program,” Fahey said. That hasn’t had an impact yet, though, as the JLTV program is operating with the expectation that funding will arrive before the continuing resolution expires. “We are planning for success here, and we are going to keep the train on track for as long as we possibly can keep it on there,” said Cavedo.

“Some really hard decisions are going to have to be made in the second quarter, mid-second quarter of this [fiscal] year. And from where I sit, I certainly hope that for JLTV, the hard decision is to keep it on the tracks. But that may not be what the Army decides.”

Even though those responsible for the JLTV program are planning for success, that doesn’t mean they are naïve about the unsettled budget environment. “Some really hard decisions are going to have to be made in the second quarter, mid-second quarter of this [fiscal] year. And from where I sit, I certainly hope that for JLTV, the hard decision is to keep it on the tracks. But that may not be what the Army decides,” said Cavedo. Even though the JLTV program has weathered a long list of funding challenges that have felled other acquisition programs, there is still a long way to go.

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...