Senators rip $6 billion Army 'debacle'

Senators rip $6 billion Army 'debacle'
© Greg Nash

Senators at a hearing Thursday criticized the Army’s handling of a $6 billion battlefield communications system, grilling the service’s top general when he admitted the system might not work despite a decade of development.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO Mark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally MORE (R-Ariz.) called the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical a “debacle” during his opening remarks while pointing to other Army “modernization woes” and a “disastrous acquisition record over the last two decades.”

“Most recently, the committee has learned of the failure of the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical, or WIN-T,” McCain said. “This program — I urge my colleagues, if they don't pay any attention to anything I say today — this program has cost the taxpayer over $6 billion, and has yet to meet the requirements of our war fighters — $6 billion.”

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Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley assured the senators he had the same concerns and was assessing WIN-T as part of a “rigorous, thorough and painful review of the entire communication electromagnetic capabilities of the U.S. Army of which WIN-T is one part of.”

He acknowledged that “these systems may or may not work in the conditions of combat that I envision in the future.” 

Milley added that he will have a report on WIN-T and the network it operates on in four to six weeks. 

“I have some serious, hard questions that have not yet been satisfactorily answered,” Milley said. “It's whether it's going to work. And I believe I'll come to that resolution within the next six weeks or so.”

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonOn The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions Overnight Defense: Trump faces blowback over report he discussed leaving NATO | Pentagon extends mission on border | Senate advances measure bucking Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Ark.) said he had “seen credible reports that WIN-T has ineffective line-of-sight communications, it is not survivable — it is too fragile to survive in a contest environment,” among other complaints.

Milley acknowledged he has seen such reports and said the current review will allow lawmakers to decide on any changes to funding or schedule during budget markups in June. 

The four-star general also blamed WIN-T’s issues on the Pentagon’s slow information technology acquisition process.

“It's already been in development for 10 years,” Milley said. “By the time we even come up with requirements and start doing prototyping and experiments and tests, these systems are already out of date.” 

WIN-T was developed to allow soldiers to communicate across the battlefield wirelessly but has been plagued by cost overruns and development issues for years. General Dynamics is the prime contractor.