Congress wants to fund Land Warrior

Published 26 June 2007

After ten years and about $2 billion dollars, the Army has a high-tech battlefield system called Land Warrior; trouble is, it wants to kill it; Congress disagrees

Donald Rumsfeld may be gone, but Congress appears to support some of his ideas. In evidence: Land Warrior, a high-tech Army program which would give soldiers deployed to Iraq improved access to information on the battlefield. A congressional panel wants to spend next year to resurrect the program. Congress Daily Megan Scully reports that the Senate Armed Services Committee would add some $80 million to the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill for the explicit purpose of reversing the Army’s decision earlier this year to kill the Land Warrior soldier system to pay for more pressing budget needs.

The Army’s decision to cancel Land Warrior came just as it was sending the first sets of advanced combat helmets, modified rifles, digital imagery, and other equipment to a battalion heading to Iraq — marking the first deployment of the soldier kit after ten years and some $2 billion spent on development. The Senate committee rejected the Army’s reasoning for ending Land Warrior as not good enough. “We shouldn’t let a budget decision influence our ability to do our best to protect our soldiers,” said Senator John Warner (R-Virginia), former Armed Services Committee chairman.

The Army said it did not have any plans to buy more Land Warrior kits, instead preferring to focus its efforts on developing a next-generation soldier system. Lawmakers argue that the focus should be on the present — not the future. Land Warrior “seemed to be a program that was potentially going to make a difference for the soldier, transforming the way the soldiers do their job, at least the leaders at the small unit level,” said a Senate aide familiar with the program. Senators say that the benefits of the Land Warrior program already are being seen in Iraq, where leaders of the 4th Battalion of the 9th Infantry Regiment are using the gear during daily operations. The battalion is part of the Stryker brigade that deployed to Iraq in the spring.