Army Restarts Disputed $45 Billion Armored Vehicle Competition

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Army is restarting competition for its new fighting vehicle, a potential $45 billion project, after reshaping an acquisition strategy that resulted in only one qualified bid and a slew of criticism.

The Army declared a “tactical pause” last month on its program to replace the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, first deployed in the mid-1980s, after the service acknowledged its requirements were too hard for industry to meet. The program is known officially as the Optimally Manned Fighting Vehicle.

General Dynamics Corp. was the only remaining qualified bidder after a team of Raytheon Co. and Rheinmetall AG was disqualified and BAE Systems Plc dropped out before submitting a bid for the prototype phase.

The service needs “to get this multibillion-dollar effort correct,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said of the pause and restart. That means taking steps “to develop our path and build a healthy level of competition back into the program. The need for this ground combat vehicle capability is real, and it is critical we get it right.”

The service notified congressional staff and industry of the restart on Thursday but didn’t indicate when a new request for proposals will be issued.

Army Restarts Disputed $45 Billion Armored Vehicle Competition

The Army is looking to replace the Bradley, its main vehicle for moving infantry to, within and from a battlefield. The Bradley first saw combat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and was deployed in Syria this year as part of the U.S. repositioning to protect oil fields from falling into Islamic State control.

The Bradley has been updated with better armor and with new communications and navigation gear to improve networking with other vehicles.

It’s a sign of progress that the Army didn’t stick stubbornly with its initial plans as it sometimes did in the past, McCarthy said in an interview Wednesday.

Past Mistakes

The most infamous case was its ill-fated Future Combat System. The service poured at least $20.7 billion in research and development into the system before then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled it in 2017. McCarthy was a senior aide to Gates at the time.

Another example was the $9.8 billion in research and development that the Army spent on the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter before canceling it in 2004.

After last month’s pause in the ground combat vehicle program, critics were “pointing fingers and” saying “you suck,” McCarthy said.

But he said that thanks to the Army’s new approach with “cross-functional” teams -- bringing together experts in combat requirements, doctrine, acquisition and entertainment -- officials realized “they were headed down the wrong track” after $23 million was spent.

“It’s OK to step back from the table and say ‘we got it wrong,”’ McCarthy said. “Historically they would have kept going. They would have bought it and they would started playing with it and bending it and shooting -- and you would have realized this isn’t what we want.”

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