Defense budgets are almost certain to decline significantly over the next decade no matter who is in the White House. Should sequestration take place, it will be difficult for the Department of Defense (DoD) to structure a coherent defense program. But even without sequestration, DoD will have to make choices among competing modernization priorities and programs.
The Army may face the most difficult challenge when it comes to vehicle modernization. There are already three major vehicle modernization programs on the books. The first is the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV), a new infantry fighting platform with enhanced survivability, connectivity and lethality. The second is the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle which is the replacement for the Humvee as a utility vehicle across the Army. The third is the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) intended to replace the thousands of obsolescent M-113s that are in the equipment sets of the heavy brigade combat teams (HBCT).
The Army may not be able to pursue all three vehicle programs simultaneously. To date, the Army has insisted that the GCV is its highest priority and the JLTV the second highest. However, it may make more sense to put the AMPV at the head of the line. With the number of HBCTs likely to be reduced over the next few years, it is important that each of the remaining formations be as capable as possible. The critical weakness in the HBCT is not the M-1 Abrams tanks or Bradley fighting vehicles, both of which have undergone modernization programs over the past decade, but in the fleet of M-113 support vehicles.
Moreover, the M-113s could be replaced relatively quickly. There are a number of candidate vehicles available from remodeled and refurbished Bradleys, to Stryker wheeled combat vehicles and even MRAPs that otherwise would go into storage. The best solution might even be a combination of two or even all three of these platforms.
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