The Army is assessing development plans for its battlefield intelligence network after Congress made it one of the largest budget-slashing victims in the new defense budget.
The fiscal 2014 defense appropriations bill cut more than 60 percent of planned spending for the Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS-A. It is designed as a multidimensional computer network that can collect, store and dispense data about the enemy.
The Army has fiercely defended the more-than-decade-long development and procurement of DCGS-A amid poor test results and scolding from congressional committees. A report by Senate Committee on Armed Services last year said it had urged the Army to buy proven, commercially available systems, but the Army did not.
“We’re still assessing specific impacts to the DCGS-A program,” said an Army spokesman.
The spokesman said that under spending restraints “all services were required to take significant reductions … Many of the Army’s major modernization programs were affected by these reductions … The Army will continue to assess the impacts of these difficult decisions and seek opportunities to restore funding if it becomes available. The DCGS-A program remains a key priority Army intelligence system.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq as a Marine officer, has exposed problems in DCGS-A over the past two years. He has argued that lives are on the line, since one role of an intelligence network is to help find the insurgents who plant improvised explosive devices, the No. 1 killer of troops in Afghanistan.
Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s deputy chief of staff, said the budget cut “speaks to the fact that the program is failing in development and most likely incapable of getting to where it needs to be, or even where the Army ultimately wants it to be.”
“It’s just unfortunate that it’s taking sequestration for the Army to do what it should have done a long time ago,” he said, referring to the automatic spending reduction plan that is in effect. “The program continues to have serious flaws that are leading to gaps in capability, and the Army still needs to acknowledge, in both words and action, that there are solutions out there that can fill those gaps at a fraction of the cost.”
As to why the appropriations committees took such a big chunk, some on Capitol Hill speculate that the Army went along to save money for other projects.
“The committee had to make tough decisions to cut funding for defense programs,” said Jennifer Hing, spokeswoman for the House Committee on Appropriations. “This was one of many areas that was reduced.”
The 2014 defense bill provided $63 billion for research and development, $7 billion less than last year. The armed forces’ accounts for buying weapons were slashed by $7.5 billion, to $93 billion.
The Army requested $267 million for the Distributed Common Ground System but received only $110 million — a nearly 60 percent drop.
The Washington Times has reported on severalf internal Army memos in which soldiers complained that DCGS-A was too slow and subject to crashes. To counter, the Army has produced soldiers who say the system works fine.