From the Defense Industry Daily
The USA’s M4 Carbine Controversy
02-Feb-2009 14:34 EST
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In February 2007, DID discussed an Army solicitation for competitive procurement of 5.56mm carbines, which was withdrawn once sole-source incumbent Colt dropped its prices. The DoD’s Inspector General got involved with a critical report, but the Army dissented, defending its practices as a sound negotiating approach that saved the taxpayer a lot of money on the contract. As it turns out, there’s a sequel. A major sequel, that’s only getting bigger with time.
It seemed like a routine request. Order more M4 carbines for US forces in the FY 2007 supplemental, FY 2008 budget, and FY 2008 supplemental funding bills. It has turned into anything but a routine exercise, however – with serving soldiers, journalists, and Senators casting a very critical eye on the effort and the rifle, and demanding open competition. With requests amounting to $375 million for weapons and $150 million in accessories, they say, the Army’s proposal amounts to an effort to replace the M16 as the USA’s primary battle rifle – using specifications that are around 15 years old, without a competition, and without considering whether better 5.56 mm alternatives might be available off the shelf. Meanwhile, the M4/M16 family is both praised and criticized for its current performance in the field.
DID explains the effort, the issues, and the options.
The latest developments? The M4 and 3 competitors, including one M4 variant that can be converted from existing rifles, come out of a sandstorm reliability test – and the M4 finishes dead last, with more than 3.5x more jams than the 3rd place finisher. But the US Army publicly says that it doesn’t care. Low-grade political pressure has continued on Capitol Hill, and the Army appears to be backtracking now, with a competition that may even be open to all calibers. Is their latest information request to industry serious, or just a replay of past practices? Meanwhile, single-source contracts to Colt continue.
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