WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army in fiscal year 2023 is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for its Integrated Visual Augmentation System, a do-it-all headset that has faced challenges in the field and in the halls of Congress.
Some $400 million is marked for procurement, Director of Force Development Brig. Gen. Michael McCurry told reporters March 29, enough for “just over 7,000 IVAS systems for” three brigade combat teams, pending successful testing. The sum is about half of a prior request.
The Army is also eyeing a newer version of the goggle using millions in research, development, testing and evaluation money.
“What we’re looking at there is to procure 270 of the next prototype,” McCurry said. “What we call the ‘1.2 version,’ which is the next version going forward on that.”
The Integrated Visual Augmentation System, a Microsoft HoloLens tailored specifically for the military, is meant to change how soldiers train, communicate and fight. The final product is expected to provide a wealth of new capabilities: a futuristic heads-up display, vision enhancements, smart crosshairs, 360-degree imaging and more.
Getting there hasn’t been easy, though. As is often the case with cutting-edge gear, “we run into issues with integrating new technologies into something that is hardened for combat,” Army acquisition chief Doug Bush said in March. “It’s not a small task.”
Congress withheld $349 million for IVAS procurement in its fiscal year 2022 spending bundle — far from the first time appropriators docked the program. Lawmakers also asked for updates, including from the Program Executive Office Soldier, an Army agency that prototypes, procures and fields things like weapons and armor.
The Army on March 15 said it “continues to work with Microsoft,” which was awarded a multibillion-dollar contract in 2021. PEO Soldier in an October 2021 announcement similarly said the service “is fully committed to its partnership with Microsoft to advance specific technologies to meet operational requirements and maximize warfighter impact.”
A key operational test is scheduled for May.
The Army’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 totaled $178 billion, documents show, a 1.7% tick up from its $175 billion fiscal year 2022 enacted funding. The request is level with its fiscal year 2021 enacted budget, as well.
The slight increase compared to fiscal year 2022 lets the Army “maintain the readiness, continue the transformation of our modernization efforts as well as take care of our people,” Maj. Gen. Mark Bennett, director of the Army budget, said March 25, according to Defense News.