The Lawton Constitution
Army Transition Means Changes
Yesterday, June 14th, 2008, our nation celebrated the 233rd birthday of the United States Army. The commitment and duty of the Army soldiers who have risked their lives to preserve our freedom have left a lasting mark on this nation. Throughout the Army’s 233 year history, tens of thousands of these brave men and women have selflessly served on distant battlefields to keep our nation safe. I am particularly proud of the Oklahomans who have served in the Army on behalf of our nation, and take great pride in representing our soldiers at Fort Sill and McAlester, as well as the many reservists and guardsmen and women across the state. I salute them for their service to this country.
Through my role as a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am provided the opportunity to travel and get an upclose look at the tremendous work done by our forces. One of the most exciting opportunities taking place in the Army is something called Future Combat Systems (FCS). Fielding FCS has been one of my top priorities of my committee membership.
Never before have we or any other nation attempted to undertake such an important and monumental ground force transformation. FCS is the most ambitious modernization program in the Army’s history, and without a doubt the most vital. The security environment of the 21st century is unclear. Our nation will likely face adversaries employing tactics spanning the entire spectrum of warfare. A combination of conventional and asymmetric warfare will likely be the norm in any future conflict and will require an Army capable of engaging a vast array of threats.Last summer, Oklahoma took center stage in the modernization of the Army when it was announced that the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C), a key component of FCS, would be integrated in Elgin, Oklahoma. NLOS-C is the first FCS Manned Ground Vehicle prototype to be completed. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota with Chief of Staff of the Army General George W. Casey to the headquarters and central engineering site of BAE Systems for the cannon’s rollout. The NLOS-C prototype also made a trip to Washington, D.C. this past week for its first public viewing.
Detractors of this new program will undoubtedly point out the expense. But I think most Americans will agree that if there is one thing we should not short-change it is our national defense. We must protect our freedom and sovereignty at all costs. While the FCS program will total nearly $160 billion over the course of its procurement, this comprises only 3.7 percent of the Army’s total budget over the same time frame. The FCS acquisition program is well-planned and budgeted, and it will be far less expensive in the long run to build FCS than to continue extending the life of existing ‘legacy’ systems and platforms, some of which we have been using for forty years. The value to our country is well worth the cost.
Though I was disappointed when the NLOS-C’s predecessor, the Crusader, was canceled in 2002, that cancellation allowed us to use everything we learned about building 21st century artillery and move it into the concept of FCS. This enabled the Army’s next generation cannon to become much more than just an artillery system. It has become a critical element of a system of networked platforms, which will revolutionize ground warfare by providing unparalleled information access to our soldiers. In my mind, the rollout of NLOS-C marks the beginning of the greatest transformation the U.S. Army has ever known, giving it the ability to fight across the entire spectrum of warfare.Beginning this summer, Oklahomans who have been hired at the new Elgin facility will travel to Minnesota for training at BAE Systems, before the Elgin facility’s opening on August 25th. Oklahoma can take pride in being an epicenter for the development of cutting-edge technology that will play an integral role in our country’s national defense and provide better protection and equipment for our troops. I look forward to the day when Non-Line-of-Sight Cannons begin rolling off the assembly line in Elgin, and America once again fields the greatest artillery system in the world.