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No Lessons Learned II

Since my post on the JTRS fiasco generated more blog traffic than usual, this post is based on the same theme – the failure of a big, multi-techonology, socio-technical project. Today’s topic is the termination of the Army’s massive Future Combat Systems (FCS) program in 2009 after 6 years of development and gobs of spent taxpayer money. Actually, some face-saving was achieved on this boondoggle since the monolithic FCS program was replaced by several smaller, fragmented programs.

From a slew of pages I bookmarked on Delicious.com over the years, I pieced together the following timeline of events for the FCS program.

1) The FCS program is formally kicked off in 2003, with much fanfare, of course.

2) In August 2005, the program met 100% of the criteria in its most important milestone to date, Systems of Systems Functional Review. (Whoo Hoo, the “paper” docs were perfect!)

3) January 24, 2008. Congressional investigators express “concern” that the lines of code have nearly doubled since development began in 2003. And they question the Army’s oversight of a far-flung project involving more than 2,000 developers and dozens of contractors working across the nation. The Government Accountability Office, Congress’s watchdog, says the Army underestimated the undertaking. When the software project began, investigators say the Army estimated it needed 33.7 million lines of code; it’s now 63.8 million — about three times the number for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program. The software programstarted prematurely. They didn’t have a solid knowledge base,” said Bill Graveline, a GAO official involved in the government’s ongoing review. “They didn’t really understand the requirements.

4) Mar 18, 2008. Setbacks in the Army’s development of its software requirements for FCS due to the immaturity of the program and the aggressive pace of the Army’s development schedule, however, have led to delays, errors and omissions in the development of essential software packages for the program, while flaws in those packages have in turn delayed or threatened other development efforts, GAO said. Developers for five major software packages, for example, said that the high-level requirements they received from the Army were poorly defined, late or missing during the development process, GAO said.

5) June 13, 2008. Possible budget cuts, a change of administration and the Pentagon’s focus on supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have ratcheted up pressure on the program just when it is showing tangible signs of progress after five years of work and almost $15 billion in taxpayer money invested.

6) Mar 02, 2009 The systems integrators heading the Army’s Future Combat Systems program have confirmed that development of the hardware and software required for the program’s vehicles and weapons systems is proceeding as planned. (Boeing Co. and Science Applications International Corp. are the lead systems integrators for the $87 billion FCS program.)

7) June 23, 2009. The memorandum issued confirms the recommendations made earlier this year by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to replace the single, giant program with a number of smaller modernization efforts.

FCS, particularly the manned combat vehicle portion, did not reflect the anti-insurgency lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. – Robert Gates

So, let’s see what went wrong: ambiguous and inconsistent and misunderstood requirements, gross underestimation of effort, immature technologies, “aggressive” schedules. Sound familiar? Yawn. Same old, same old.

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  1. July 3, 2012 at 6:30 am
  2. March 2, 2013 at 4:51 am

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