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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Persuasive Essay on the Future Combat System Program and the Reasons why it should be Suspended

            The Future Combat System Program is an ambitious multi billion dollar program which seeks to transform, modernize and develop the army (Andrew Feickert, 2006, p.1).  The program was first envisioned by the former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki for the purpose of empowering and enabling the army to react to overseas crises swiftly and effectively.  The principle behind it is that army units such as the M-1 Abrams tank and the M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle are quite heavy and take weeks for to be deployed.  In addition, these units require a complex system of logical support which is difficult to organize especially when time is of the essence.  Since these weapons will not be as effective in situations when there is a need to take immediate action there is need to modernize the army.  On the other hand, light units can be deployed immediately and require less logistical support.  Thus, the army sought to develop a new generation of combat units that are lighter than but as lethal as the bigger combat vehicles.

            Through the FCS Program, the army hoped that they can enhance the capability of its army vehicles and at the same time make them less reliant for support from other units.  Under this program, heavy army vehicles such as the M-1 Abrams tank and them-2 Bradley will be replaced by eight new types of armored vehicles, four classes of unmanned air vehicles, three types of unmanned ground vehicles, unattended ground sensors, a missile launcher, and improved munitions which will all be linked by advanced communications network under an interconnected and integrated system. 

            Under the FCS Program, the eight new types of vehicles will share a common chassis and engine.  They would also have new weapons, sensors, and different kinds of protection.  They are also more fuel efficient compared to the heavy armored vehicles.

            While the FCS Program may be an effective tool in fighting terrorism, I have several concerns which led me to the conclusion that this is not the right time for continuing with such program.  The first and most important is its cost.  According to J. Michael Gilmore (2006), Assistant Director, the research and development portion of the program alone is scheduled to extend through 2016 and require a total of $21 billion from 2007 to 2016 (p.4).   He added that with the planned purchase of 1.5 brigades per year to begin in 2015, the FCS program will require $8 billion to $10 billion annually starting 2015 and for as long as the program continues with the same yearly purchase rate (J Michael Gilmore, 2006, p.4).  Given the current situation of the United States - where people are losing their jobs, people are losing their home, people have no health care, companies in different industries are filing for bankruptcy, and people have no food on their table, I do not think it should be the United States to purchase weapons to be used for war.  The funds that will be spent for this program will go a long way when it is invested in some other program.  It can be used to rehabilitate the insurance industry or the car industry or the banking industry.  The billions of dollars that should be allocated will instead be very useful when it is used to pay off the people’s interest rates on their amortizations for their homes.  More people will in fact benefit when the money will be directly given to people who are directly affected by the economic crisis.  Again, this is not the time to spend on weapons.

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            The second concern is the technological readiness of the FCS program.  I find the goals and objectives of the FCS program very lofty but I do not think that at present technology is available for the program to actually be as effective as it is envisioned.  The most serious obstacle for the FCS program is how to develop a software program that will allow all of the new systems to communicate and share data with one another.  The development of this technology will require 34 million lines of software code.  J. Michael Gilmore estimates that this is around twice the amount necessary for the Joint Strike Fighter, the Department of Defense’s largest software development (p.6).

            The third issue is the safety of the soldiers manning the lightweight FCS vehicles.  The assumption is that the light armored vehicles will replace the heavy tanks the army currently has.  They say that these vehicles are equipped to survive on the battlefield since it has the technology to know the enemy’s whereabouts which will give them the opportunity to calculate the situation and find out whether an encounter with an enemy force will be advantageous or not.  This is however very idealistic.  Not everything goes according to plan in the battlefield.  Some guns malfunction.  Some bombs do not explode.  People die on the battlefield.  What if the sensors and the communications network do not work according to plan? What if they malfunction while the battle is going on? This will only place in danger the billions of dollars of investment on the FCS program. 

            Fourth, I do not think that going to war is the solution to anything.  Fighting force with another force does not work.  Though it will produce short term results, it does not however lead to long term solutions.  Instead of investing money to weapons and artilleries that aim to destroy lives and property, I think our country should instead invest its money on peace efforts.  United States should take a more active role in finding solution to important issues such as worldwide poverty.  I think one reason why people are encouraged to fight is because of poverty.  If the United States can help create jobs for these people in Third World countries them there is good reason for the combatants to drop their weapons.

            Fifth, I do not suggest that the Future Combat System Program be scrapped.  It is my proposal that at this point it be temporarily suspended.  It is not denied that the Future Combat System Program may in the future be needed against the enemy.  At this point, however, it is not a priority.  

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