May 1, 2010  

Spinout failure

To the Army for pushing into production systems it knows don’t work. After the Future Combat Systems’ program was canceled last year, the Army worked to salvage some high-tech spinouts from the wreckage. But tests have so far shown major performance and reliability issues with most of these systems. The Non-Line-Of-Sight System, for example, misses its target 50 percent of the time and an urban unattended ground sensor provided little data of use. The Army continues to purchase spinout technologies, however, and move them to initial production. This year alone, the Army will spend $682 million buying FCS spinouts. The justification given is that innovative new systems, even when they don’t work, can be tested and adapted in the field. This flips the 80 percent solution concept on its head. It makes sense to get needed equipment, even if it’s less than perfect, to soldiers in war zones as quickly as possible. But it’s a waste of funding and manpower resources to deploy 20 percent solutions in the hope that the soldier can work a fix.