Army Goes to School on its Industrial Base Issues
Since the Army doesn’t have any new big vehicle programs coming on line until the JLTV and GCV reach production—if they reach it—later this decade, the service has hired consulting firm A.T. Kearney to conduct a study on the ground vehicle industrial base to find out who’s in for the long haul, and who may bolt.
“What we owe to the country, to our industry and to the Army is to really analyze inside our systems where we think we have vulnerabilities,” said Scott Davis, program executive officer for the Army’s ground combat systems. “We’re sort of in a transitional phase right now. We don’t have a large production stream,” he continued, meaning that in the relative lull before new builds start in several years, it’s critical to take the temperature of the major prime contractors and the second and third tier components manufacturers to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
The Army is undertaking the study “to understand where [industry’s] challenges are, and what it would take for them to make a decision to leave the military vehicle sector.”
Speaking on a panel of ground vehicle program managers with Davis, Col. William Sheehy, program manager for the Heavy Brigade Combat Team, said that while “I don’t think you’re going to see large companies collapsing all over the United States,” even if funding for upgrades declines further, “if you look two to three years down the road, when things start to come back on line, that’s when you’ll start to realize the industrial base impacts.”
Davis appeared to want to keep at arm’s length calls from some industry primes for more upgrades to existing vehicles, specifically BAE’s desire to do more work on the Bradley fleet and GD and congressional insistence that the Abrams fleet needs modernization sooner than the Army had planned.
“The average age of the tank and the Bradley are probably the youngest they’ve ever been,” Davis said, noting that the service has also been able to stock up on its supply of spare parts. This pool of spare parts also means that the Army won’t need to purchase those pieces of equipment from the smaller suppliers in such bulk for several years, which somewhat insulates parts of the service’s ground vehicle fleet from the effects of sequestration since the money to keep these vehicles running in later years has already been spent. But it also means that those second tier suppliers won’t see much new business for a few years.