Too Baroque to Fix
: The US Army's Future Combat Systems

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The US Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program was officially terminated on June 26, 29. Close followers of the program were shocked. Large defense acquisition programs are notoriously difficult to terminate, despite constant bickering over time, cost and feasibility. The FCS program was no exception. Its program features normally would have safeguarded it beyond the usual Washington DC politicking. Since 199, the FCS program had accrued the $18.1 billion in sunk costs which alone may have discouraged cancellation. In addition, the FCS technology was beginning to work, and some of the systems were receiving positive reviews from the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps most importantly, FCS employed 550 contractors in 41 states and 220 congressional districts. This level of political breadth should have guaranteed the life of a program despite any shortcomings. Given these program attributes, any attempt to explain the FCS program termination must delve deeper than the usual political struggle over defense equipment priorities and resources.

The central argument of this thesis is that the FCS program required an ongoing, close connection between the program's technical elements and its political context. Such a strategy would have provided a well-articulated, growing political defense of the program combined with a more fluid technological approach that was willing to jettison obsolete requirements. The opposite occurred. The Army leadership failed to build the necessary supportive political relationships. The program also doggedly retained all of its original technological requirements while adding new requirements over time. The combination of these characteristics created the faults of the FCS program which led to its termination. In this light, program failure is no surprise. This paper aims to demonstrate what the FCS program can teach the Army about its ability to manage its acquisition efforts and how the program's history may inform the broader study of defense procurement.

Date of Award2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorJohn Stone (Supervisor) & Reinoud Leenders (Supervisor)

Cite this