While the Defense Department has shifted down on ground vehicle investments in recent years as the U.S. withdraws from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, those programs are still getting plenty of traction.

The combined value of contracts and contract modifications for tracked or wheeled combat, assault and tactical vehicles and deals associated with wheeled trucks and tractors reached $12.7 billion in 2010, according to an Aviation Week Intelligence Network analysis of contracting data aggregated by the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting.

One of the currently most-watched ground vehicle programs is the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV). “The Administration’s January 26, 2012, Major Budget Decision Briefing not only introduced a new Asia-Pacific strategic focus, but also delayed the GCV program for a year,” notes a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

“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 was $639.9 million for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E), reflecting a one-year delay in the program and a $1.7 billion program cut.

“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.”

Another ground program on the congressional radar is the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV). The fiscal 2013 budget request for JLTVs is $72.3 million for Army RDT&E and $44.5 million for Marine Corps RDT&E, for a program total of $116.8 million, CRS notes in another recent report.

Ford Motor Company in late 2011 expressed an interest in entering the JLTV competition, CRS notes, but the Army was unwilling to extend the RFP to accommodate them. “Some in Congress have questioned why the Army cannot modify its RFP, noting the benefits of having the nation’s second-largest auto manufacturer back in the business of building military vehicles,” CRS says.