Some major Army programs slip due to coronavirus effect

Some of the Army’s biggest programs may not stay on schedule as expected delays to new weapons systems come to fruition due to coronavirus.

The service’s top acquisition official says most major weapons systems remain on track for when the first units will be equipped, but the benchmarks leading up to that and after will likely slip.

“That doesn’t mean some of the programs won’t have adjustments to delivery schedules or adjustments to milestones,” Bruce Jette, assistant Army secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters Wednesday during a call hosted by the Defense Writers Group. “We are making adjustments as needed and working with the companies to try and catch up.”

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One of the major programs that will see delays is the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, a command and control weapon that shows a single view of the battlespace.

“The date we promised the solider they’d have that ability has not slipped, but we will adjust within the schedule,” Futures Command leader Gen. Mike Murray said. “We just added the checks to this event coming up.”

Another large program expected to see changes is the Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense system.

“I think we slipped it a few months to the right based on some software issues,” Murray said.

The outlook is fairly rosy considering Defense Department acquisition lead Ellen Lord said coronavirus would likely cause a three month delay in the development of major weapons programs.

“Particularly, we see a slowdown in the shipyards,” Lord said in April. “Aviation is the most highly impacted sector that we have. Right now there isn’t any specific COVID penalty that we see for a specific program; however, we do anticipate a three-month slowdown in terms of execution.”

Jette said throughout the pandemic prime contractors have mostly been able to stay open and working. Boeing and BAE each had to shut down operations for a week due to people coming into work while sick, but otherwise the major defense companies have been in business.

“Industry has made a significant adjustment in order to try to make sure they continued producing on time and on schedule,” Jette said. “They haven’t hit the target on 100% of the cases, but in general with all of our programs we only have one program we know we are going to have to make a significant change to.”

That program is a smaller level program, which Jette did not name.

“Because it’s smaller it’s tied to a smaller company,” Jette said. “The greatest sensitivities tend to be down in those programs that have connectivity to smaller companies as their major source of technology, delivery and resources. That’s because if one person gets sick in the company then you often end up with the entire company being in quarantine for 14 days.”

Jette added that industry has been cooperative about sharing information on subcontractors.

“I have a 60 page report that gets updated on a daily basis on the status of the subs to the various major programs,” Jette said. “If industry is not resolving the problem themselves then it comes into my office and I’m on the phone with the CEO of the corporation.”