WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - U.S. defense budget cuts will affect the Army's plan to develop a new ground combat vehicle and most other acquisition programs, with some facing delays or even cancellation, Army Secretary John McHugh said on Monday. Army leaders are trying to protect investments in programs aimed at developing new weapons, but some programs will likely be delayed, McHugh told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference.
"I find it difficult to envision any significant number of our developmental initiatives that won't be affected," McHugh said. "And some we'll have to cancel."
He singled out efforts to develop a new ground combat vehicle and improve the Army's communications and computer network as big priorities. He said even those programs would have to be revamped if mandatory across-the-board budget cuts stay in place.
General Dynamics Corp, which built the M1A1 Abrams tank, BAE Systems Plc, maker of the Bradley fighting vehicle, and Boeing Co, which builds several different helicopters for the Army, and others are looking for clues about the impact of spending cuts on new Army acquisition programs.
Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno told reporters the the Joint Light Tacticle Vehicle program, which will replace the workhorse Humvees used by the military, and replacements for the Uh-60, CH-47 and Apache helicopters were also priorities.
"The bottom line is we can't afford all of that. And so we're going to have make some tough decisions," he said, noting that the analysis was underway to help frame those decisions.
He said the current budget environment meant the Army might have to delay some new weapons programs by four to five years.
Neither McHugh nor Odierno provided details on which specific programs might be cancelled, revamped or delayed.