As the war in Southwest Asia continued into 2010, the U.S. Army was showing the strain of continuous combat on both equipment and its all-volunteer personnel.
The Army was well into a massive multi-year transformation program when 2009 began and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, retained in that post in the transition from the Bush to Obama administrations, canceled the largest single development and acquisition program in Army history – the Future Combat Systems (FCS). Many of the individual components in what had been planned as a fully integrated 18-platform family of ground and air vehicles and systems then were or are planned to be reconstituted – and some significantly restructured – as individual new programs.
While those new efforts are expected to benefit from some of the work already done on FCS, the change left the Army without a new tank program and with a possibly longer wait for next-generation vehicles across the board. However, the Army’s senior military and civilian leaders pushed to “spin out” components from the old FCS and its successor programs as individual technologies become available, getting them into the field immediately rather than waiting for the rest of the program to be completed.
“This aggressive fielding schedule, coupled with a tailored test and evaluation strategy, ensures soldiers receive reliable, proven equipment that will give them a decisive advantage over any enemy,” according to the Statement on the Posture of the U.S. Army 2009.
“The Army is currently balancing equipment needs between theaters and rapidly retrograding equipment no longer required for the fight for induction into Reset,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli told the House Armed Services Committee in July.
“The Army is currently assessing what equipment will be Reset to fill additional requirements for OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan], other theater requirements, and what can be sent back for Reset as part of Responsible Drawdown. After the Reset of equipment no longer needed in theater, we will issue the equipment to units to fill shortages and to conduct training or to fulfill Homeland Defense and Homeland Security requirements.”
At times, the Army has had up to 26 Brigade Combat Teams deployed worldwide at the same time. Army helicopters in Iraq have been operating at up to three times planned peacetime rates, tanks rolling more than five times their programmed annual mileage, and the truck fleet seeing some six times planned peacetime use. For trucks and Humvees, the resulting wear and tear has been further exacerbated by the addition of heavy armor kits to enhance force protection.
“This increased operational tempo shortens the useful life of our equipment and demands a much earlier and larger investment in depot maintenance than programmed for peacetime operations,” Chiarelli told lawmakers. “We have steadily expanded the capacity and productivity at the Army Materiel Command’s depots and we have also reached out to industry wherever possible to help to meet our increased maintenance needs.
“Since the beginning of combat operations, we have Reset over 470,000 pieces of equipment, including 2,702 aircraft, 4,622 tracked vehicles, 33,721 Humvees [includes Reset and recap], 6,550 trucks, 3,819 trailers, 214,484 small arms, and 20,170 generators. In FY 2009 [alone], the Army Reset approximately 98,000 major items of equipment, including 37 aircraft, 4,600 tracked vehicles, 4,700 tactical wheeled vehicles, and 39,000 small arms at the sustainment level, and hundreds of thousands of additional pieces of equipment at the field level.”