General Dynamics will have to decide whether to pursue a more formal protest regarding the fairness of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle program. (US Army)
WASHINGTON — The April 4 rejection by US Army Materiel Command of a General Dynamics Land Systems protest disputing the fairness of the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) competition puts the ball squarely back into GD’s court, which has the option of lodging a more formal protest with the Government Accountability Office — a move that would halt all work on the program for weeks or even months.
On Feb. 14, GD filed a protest contending “the AMPV solicitation provides a competitive advantage” to competitor BAE Systems, since BAE “has years of Army test and performance data” on the M113 personnel carrier, which the competition has been launched to replace.
“In our view, the AMPV procurement process is not consistent with the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984, requiring a “full and open competition,” the company said in a statement.
These statements could indicate the company will file a protest with the GAO during the 10-day window that began when the initial protest was denied on April 4.
At issue is the fact that the Army wants competitors to incorporate parts from the Bradley fighting vehicle and the M113 in their AMPV designs, both of which are made by BAE. General Dynamics contends that it doesn’t have all of the relevant historical information on those parts to fully compete. The company has long said that it would submit a version of its eight-wheeled Stryker vehicle, of which the Army currently fields nine full brigades and a smaller Special Operations contingent.
BAE launched its own salvo on Friday afternoon, saying that it “is pleased” at the decision and that “cost savings, political expediency and business reasons do not justify putting soldiers’ lives at risk. The Army has had this solicitation in the works for two years and has adjusted requirements based on industry feedback to accommodate the broadest number of competitive offerings possible.”
On April 3, 10 members of Congress wrote a letter to the Pentagon’s top weapons tester, Frank Kendall, urging the Army to rewrite the five-month-old request for proposals. The lawmakers wrote that the Army should rework the program with a view toward “allowing for a mixed fleet of both track and wheeled vehicles” to meet the requirements for the competition.
In other words, the Army should split up the buy for 3,000 AMPVs between Stryker and Bradley variants.
The lawmakers also outlined the core reason for GD’s protests: the dearth of new ground vehicle programs in the Army’s near-term future.
“Given the intensely restrictive budget requirement the Army faces, the AMPV might be the only new vehicle entering the fleet for decades,” they wrote.
Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, who represents the district that houses the Red River Army Depot — and its 4,500 jobs — which performs a great deal of work on Bradleys, issued a statement on Friday applauding the decision.
“No current vehicles meet the survivability, mobility, and reliability upgrades outlined in the Army’s competitive bid,” he wrote. The program “cannot be delayed a year or more by rehashing the multi-year bidding process.”
On March 4, Hall sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pitching BAE’s AMPV bid as good for the local economy, saying that “if BAE Systems is awarded the contract, jobs will be protected at Red River Army Depot and additional jobs could be added.” ■