/ / / / GCT 2014 Volume 5 Issue 5 (October)

Q&A: Brig. Gen. David G. Bassett


 QA bassett

Combat Multiplier:
The Maneuver and the Punch for the             Maneuver Warfighter

Brigadier General David G. Bassett
Program Executive Officer
U.S. Army Ground Combat Systems




Brigadier General David G. Bassett became the Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems in September 2013. He is responsible for the life cycle management of a complex and diverse organization with major defense acquisition programs, armored multi-purpose vehicle and Acquisition Category I programs (Paladin Integrated Management program, Abrams tank upgrades, Bradley fighting vehicles upgrades and the Stryker family of vehicles), and the M88 Hercules.

Bassett was commissioned through ROTC in 1988 into the Signal Corps with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia. As a junior officer, he served in Germany in tactical positions as communications platoon leader, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and as battalion S4 and company commander in 123rd Signal Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division.

Following the Signal Officer’s Advanced Course and Advanced Civil Schooling at the University of Virginia, where he received a Master of Science in computer science, he was assigned to the U.S. European Command Staff, where he served as the requirements analysis and interoperability action officer on the J6 staff.

He transferred to the Army Acquisition Corps in 1999 and was assigned to Fort Monmouth, N.J., as operations officer, Communications and Electronics Command Software Engineering Center. Bassett went on to serve at Fort Monmouth as the chief software engineer for the Future Combat Systems Network and as Program Integrator and Product Manager, Future Combat Systems, Software Integration. He then served on the Joint Staff as the ground maneuver analyst, Capabilities and Acquisition Division, J8.

From July 2009 to May 2012, Bassett served as the Army’s Project Manager for Tactical Vehicles within the Program Executive Office for Combat Support & Combat Service Support (PEO CS&CSS). In June 2012, Tactical Vehicles was restructured, and he was tapped to lead the Joint Program Office, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, PEO CS&CSS through the Engineering and Manufacturing Development award from June 2012 to August 2012.

In September 2012, Bassett assumed responsibilities as the Deputy Program Executive Officer (DPEO) for CS&CSS. As the DPEO, he provided technical and managerial oversight for approximately 270 tactical wheeled vehicles, special-purpose vehicles and equipment, physical security equipment, petroleum and water systems, and other support systems/equipment for the U.S. Army and sister services, as well as foreign military sales.

Bassett is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and a distinguished graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.

Q: No other main battle tank is as combat-proven (at least successfully) as the Abrams. Does the tank’s architecture, size and weight allow for it to grow in capability beyond its current version? What are the expectations for the platform?

A: We continue to add capability to the Abrams tank, which is already a world-class vehicle. The Army is committed to an additional incremental upgrade to the Abrams tank that will give it greater lethality, protection and ability to carry the network and greatly reduced fuel consumption. The initial stage of this upgrade will address the system architecture (power and data management systems) to support inbound technology, specifically the Army’s network. Our industry partners are currently building prototypes of the selected technologies for this effort and the program recently completed its critical design review. We will drive down fuel consumption by integrating an auxiliary power unit rather than allowing the turbine engine to idle for long periods.

In the latter stage of this upgrade, we will improve the tank’s sights and sensors—centered on the integration of a new third-generation forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology. Lethality improvements via upgrades to the gunner’s primary sight and commander’s independent thermal viewer, coupled with new FLIR technology, a color camera and a laser range finder, will enable the tank crew to take full advantage of the capabilities of a new advanced multipurpose round being developed by the Project Manager, Maneuver Ammunition Systems.

Of course, there are limits to how any vehicle can evolve over time, so we anticipate the Army making a decision in the FY18 timeframe on whether to improve the tank again through a follow-on incremental upgrade or initiating a new start program for a future main battle tank. This will support new requirements generation, inform science and technology investments in key technology development areas, identify feasibility and key trades, and remain synchronized with the Army’s future fighting vehicle effort to promote commonality.

Q: Hopefully my math hasn’t failed me, but the M109 just passed its 50th birthday, coming first into service in 1963. Tell me about the M109A7 program (major elements differing from the A6, numbers to be modified, time frames, room for further enhancements)—is there room for an A8?

A: Your math hasn’t failed you. The M109A7 represents a significant and long-needed upgrade of the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, which includes buying back space, weight, power and cooling (SWaP-C) to ensure the system remains relevant with room to add new capabilities in the future.

While the vehicle’s cannon will remain unchanged, the M109A7 will sport a brand-new chassis, engine, transmission, suspension and steering system and improved survivability to go along with an upgraded electric ramming system. The automotive systems are much more common with the Bradley fighting vehicle. In fact, in many cases, the M109A7 will adopt advanced technologies and designs first and the Bradley will receive some of these capabilities later through planned upgrades. This improved commonality across the armored brigade combat team (ABCT) formation will substantially drive down our cost of ownership.

The new 600-volt on-board power system is designed to accommodate emerging technologies and future requirements, as well as current requirements like the Battlefield Network. The on-board power system leverages technologies developed during the non-line-of-sight cannon program and ensures the system will have enough SWaP-C growth potential to last until 2050.

These improvements will ensure the system can keep pace on the battlefield with other members of the Army’s ABCT formation from both an automotive and technological standpoint. The system is engineered to increase crew force protection, improve readiness and vehicle survivability and avoid component obsolescence.

Q: There is obviously a difference in mobility requirements for a large open desert-type operation versus a more closed-in environment. Accepting the premise that the heavy maneuver force is only as mobile as the slowest component, what are the mobility challenges facing the armored force? Are there lethality challenges?

A: The tracked vehicles that make up our ABCT formations offer the greatest mobility of any vehicles in the Army’s ground inventory. Weight plays a role, particularly where bridges and road surfaces lack the capacity for the heavier vehicles. Distributing that weight across the area of the tracks as opposed to the smaller footprint of wheeled solutions gives tracked vehicles a marked advantage across virtually all off-road terrain mission profiles. Having a vehicle capable of fighting effectively and surviving on the modern battlefield is our top priority, and the combat vehicles our soldiers have relied on for more than a decade during the past two wars proved capable and adaptable.

Keeping them relevant as battlefield conditions changed and new threats emerged has taxed those systems to the limits of the systems’ space, weight, power and cooling (SWaP-C) design margins. Our planned incremental upgrades to Abrams, Bradley and Stryker, often referred to as engineering change proposal (ECP) upgrades, are specific modernization efforts aimed at restoring a platform’s lost capability, without major overhaul to the platform itself. We already talked about the details of those upgrades for the Abrams tank. These ECPs don’t exceed the operational capability outlined in current system documents, but rather ensure that system performance is not further degraded and that Army mission equipment packages can be integrated in the future. They will also improve the vehicle’s ability to host the Army’s network and buy back performance. These ECP efforts represent the core modernization efforts going into our existing platforms.

Along with those upgrades, we needed to address the long-needed divesture of the M113 by replacing it with the armored multipurpose vehicle (AMPV) within the ABCT. AMPV restores the balance of protection, mobility, performance and capability so that those platforms can fight alongside the rest of the ABCT systems after being restricted for many years to the confines of field-operating bases. Our self-propelled howitzer fleet gets the same treatment with the M109A7 upgrade along with a host of other improvements to that weapon system.

These upgrades and replacement programs posture the entire range of ABCT combat vehicles to operate effectively together. We don’t see any of them as the “slowest component” once these upgrades are made.

Q: AMPV is to replace the M113s still in the fleet. With the length of service of the M113 and the time it has taken to even begin a replacement program, what role can the PEO play in focusing the development and acquisition process when looking at possible programs to replace the Abrams, Bradley, Paladin and, farther down the road, the Stryker? Are there serious conversations taking place now about those replacement programs?

A: Even with the conclusion of the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program last year, we continue to recognize the need to upgrade the infantry fighting vehicle as the Army’s most important capability gap in the ABCT formation. However, the fact that the M113 is so old and has essentially been taken out of operational use makes the AMPV our most important funding priority in the near term. Without it, our ABCT formations cannot employ the entire range of platforms necessary for them to perform their mission.

Our PEO is first and foremost focused on delivering the AMPV program on cost, on schedule and with all the capabilities outlined in the AMPV requirements document. We are committed to taking advantage of any and all opportunities to accelerate this program into production and make resources available to other key Army priorities if at all possible. In this difficult budgetary environment, it is even more critical that we prioritize our investments in every portfolio. At sequestered budget levels, it is clear that the Army will be assuming risk across all of its modernization portfolios; the combat vehicles portfolio is no exception. AMPV, M109A7 and the ECP programs we’ve already talked about represent our most important near-term budgetary priorities. We are investing in the ABCT and Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) formations and deferring critical investments to add mobility, protection and lethality to our IBCT formations with new capabilities for mobile protected firepower, lightweight reconnaissance vehicles, and ultra-light combat vehicles, as well as needed lethality upgrades to our Stryker formations.

Without additional resources and relief from sequestration, the funding in our portfolio is insufficient for us to keep our existing ABCT platforms ready and relevant, let alone allow us to replace, rather than upgrade, these platforms.

Q: How has the Stryker platform performed in recent conflicts?

A: Particularly with the last few rotations on the double V-hull (DVH) upgrade in Afghanistan, it is clear that the Stryker is an incredibly effective and survivable platform for its intended purpose as a fast, highly mobile medium-weight vehicle. The SBCT fills a critical role in terms of deployability, mobility, protection, speed and lethality that bridges the gap between the tremendous capability that an ABCT brings and the IBCT formation.

A total of 20 Stryker brigades have deployed to both OIF and OEF. Stryker was the only ground vehicle in combat through the duration of OEF and OIF that consistently maintained an operational readiness rate well above 90 percent—far exceeding any other combat vehicle.

The Stryker DVH emphasizes the Army’s dedication to providing the best possible protection for our soldiers. The successful coordination/cooperation of industry and defense that resulted in the rapid design, test, procurement and fielding of a much-improved Stryker vehicle has saved numerous soldiers’ lives.

Stryker DVH is not just a redesigned, unique V-shape hull, but also includes improved mine-resistant blast seating, improved fire suppression features and a robust suspension system that gives the soldiers a smoother ride, reduces shock and vibration and improves readiness. With the upcoming ECP for the DVH Stryker, we’re making an already capable vehicle even better with improved mobility, reliability and network integration.

Q: What does the cancellation of the GCV program say about the future of combat vehicle modernization?

A: The conclusion of GCV says more about the resource challenges that the combat vehicle portfolio faces than anything else. Sequestration put the portfolio in the difficult position where the Army could not afford both the development and production of the GCV vehicle while simultaneously addressing the remaining needs across the ABCT and SBCT formations (AMPV, M109A7 and ECPs on Abrams, Bradley and Stryker DVH). In the end, we needed to ensure readiness and capability across the entire formation and chose to defer GCV until those priorities had been met.

At the point of cancellation, the GCV development program was meeting requirements on budget and on schedule. The GCV program was concluded upon completion of the technology development (TD) phase in June.

As I mentioned earlier, new infantry and cavalry fighting vehicles remain the most critical requirement for the ABCT Formation. The Army is managing the development of new IFV capabilities under the future fighting vehicle (FFV) effort and has developed a three-phase plan to mature these critical combat vehicle technologies.

Phase I—Science & Technology Insertion: This phase engages the GCV vendors to conduct vehicle design excursions, starting from their current designs, enabling the Army to understand what can be achieved in platform reductions to size, weight and power versus what can be gained in performance (i.e., mobility, survivability, 
lethality, reliability). This effort began with unexpended FY14 funds from the GCV TD phase, issued as six-month letter contracts to the prime vendors. Follow-on with FFV FY15 and FY16 funding will refine GCV TD and Bradley fighting vehicle modification concepts and continue technology and integration assessments. Phase I will be used to inform a potential new IFV requirement and ensure that current designs take advantage of maturing technologies that were not originally included due to the original GCV IFV program schedule.

Phase II—Art of the Possible: Phase II will be a full and open competition to conduct further conceptual designs and trade studies utilizing S&T technologies. These design excursions will be unconstrained by the current IFV requirements and will inform Army strategy for the possible development of a new requirement by identifying tradespace between the requirements and current technology.

Phase III—Converge: Phase III will be an option on the Phase II contract for vendors to provide robust system concepts to support an Army decision to restart an infantry fighting vehicle program (if resources are available) and Milestone A decision. These concepts will provide higher-fidelity capabilities, cost and risk assessments, and cost-operational effective analyses to support an analysis of alternatives. The result will be early prototype builds that include integration of Army and industry advanced technologies.

Q: How can the PEO and industry best share ideas and processes that can improve efficiency, reduce costs and deliver more capabilities to the warfighter?

A: Particularly in these challenging budgetary times, keeping clear channels of communication open with industry is even more critical. We must be candid about expected programs and production volumes in order for industry to prioritize their own investment effectively. That communication does not change what is often a hard reality that must be faced and hard decisions that must be made. A healthy, productive, efficient and responsive industrial base is critical to the Army’s ability to generate combat power now and in the future. But it is clear that we are in a period of diminishing resources where the volume of work is not and likely will not be what it was during the last 12 years of conflict. It is critically important that industry makes the structural changes necessary to remain both efficient and responsive.

We have tried to be open to arrangements that might incentivize industry to capitalize on commercial or non-defense work in existing manufacturing to offset losses in defense. Ground combat systems are too critical to our nation’s security for a budget cut to be compounded by a loss of buying power if costs rise dramatically as industry workload decreases. The most competitive companies will manage this effectively and continue to offer outstanding value for the precious resources we can apply to our programs.

To better understand where the industrial base may be experiencing stress up and down the supply chain, the Army conducted in-depth supplier evaluations by deliberately assessing supply chain risk for each of the major 1st and 2nd tier suppliers. All assessments concluded that along with certain specialized tank system-level manufacturing skills (e.g., special armor integration and fire control system alignment), armor, transmissions and FLIR are the most critical and fragile supplier capabilities within the tank industrial base. We will therefore continue to focus any congressional funding toward those key capabilities.

However, we are required to also sustain the very important capabilities of our arsenals and depots. In fact, as you may know, in the FY14 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress specifically directed the Secretary of the Army to assign arsenals sufficient workload to maintain critical capabilities.

As the Abrams moves into Network Package production in FY17, the manufacturing planning team has been directed to review each component on the tank to best allocate workload across the both commercial and organic manufacturing base to lower cost and ensure key capabilities are maintained.

As those manufacturing teams identify candidates for arsenal work loading, we will be continuously exploring new types of public/private partnerships with our depots and arsenals (Watervliet and Rock Island Arsenals support the tank program) to maintain critical organic capabilities that can be combined with commercial best practices. The Honeywell/Anniston Army Depot partnership has been the model for such arrangements for the Abrams TIGER engine program, as well as the General Dynamics Land Systems/Anniston army depot for the Stryker program. Wartime demands have put our infrastructure in need of major rehabilitation and upgrades. We need to reset our factories, including our organic capabilities, with modern, more flexible equipment that increase efficiencies at lower volumes.

Last modified on Friday, 03 October 2014 13:08

Additional Info

  • Issue: 5
  • Volume: 5
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