WASHINGTON – As the U.S. cuts its Army forces and shifts its focus and resources into the Asia-Pacific region, Congress may start to put the service’s proposed Ground Combat Vehicle under greater scrutiny, a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report says.

“Potential issues for Congress include the role and need for the GCV in a downsized Army that will likely have fewer heavy brigade combat teams (HBCTs),” CRS says in its March report, “The Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” which was released earlier this month.

“The [Obama] administration’s announcement of a strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region presents questions as to the necessity for HBCTs and, by association, the GCV,” CRS reports.

“GCV affordability also remains a key consideration for Congress ,” CRS says.

“The Army contends that the average unit production cost for the GCV will be between $9 million and $10.5 million and the average unit production cost (including spare parts) will be between $11 million and $13 million. The Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) estimates that the average unit production cost will be in the $16 million to $17 million range. If the CAPE’s cost estimate proves to be accurate, the Army would need an additional $7.2 billion to acquire 1,800 GCVs.”

The administration’s Jan. 26 budget briefing not only introduced a new Asia-Pacific strategic focus , CRS notes, but also delayed the GCV program for a year due to a contractor program contract award protest.

“While some might consider this a setback, it can also be viewed as an endorsement of the GCV program by the Department of Defense ,” CRS says.

The fiscal 2013 budget request for the GCV is $639.874 million for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, reflecting a one-year delay in the program and a $1.7 billion program cut, CRS notes.

The Army reissued a request for proposals for the GCV on Nov. 30, 2010, and planned to begin fielding the GCV by 2015-17. In August 2011, the Army awarded two technology development contracts: $439.7 million to the General Dynamics-led team and $449.9 million to the BAE Systems-Northrop Grumman team.

The same month, the third team vying for the GCV technology development contract, SAIC-Boeing, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office , which denied it in December.

The Army immediately lifted the stop-work order that had been placed on the other teams .