WASHINGTON — Congress is directing the U.S. Army to conduct a competition to procure its Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) as part of its fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill released March 21.

While the Army has maintained it is planning to hold a competition for the GMV, there have been murmurings the service might just decide to continue to buy the interim vehicle — General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems’ Flyer 72 — it had purchased for five airborne infantry brigade combat teams.

The congressional language locks the Army into its publicly declared plan.

Industry members were left scratching their heads when the Army decided to delay a competition and field an interim solution using Flyer 72 after spending years demonstrating and evaluating a variety of commercial off-the-shelf offerings.

The pool of readily available ultralight vehicles is deep. In addition to GD’s Flyer, the Boeing-MSI Defense Phantom Badger; Polaris Defense’s air-transportable off-road combat vehicle DAGOR; Hendrick Dynamics’ Commando Jeep; Vyper Adamas’ Viper; and Lockheed Martin’s High Versatility Tactical Vehicle, which is a version of the British Army’s HMT-400 Jackal, were all participants in a vehicle demonstration at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2014.

The Army launched its new-start GMV program in 2017 as planned, based off the service’s new combat vehicle modernization strategy released in 2016, which called for the capability.

The service said it wanted a vehicle that could carry a nine-person squad with its equipment that could be air-droppable and sling-loaded on a UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter.

The Army planned to reach a full-rate production decision on a vehicle by the end of FY19.

But then it decided to split GMV procurement into two phases in the FY18 budget request and, in the first phase, planned to exclusively buy 295 of GD’s Flyers through a previously awarded contract with U.S. Special Operations Command. The second phase would open up into a competition to build 1,700 more GMVs.

Procuring the GMV vehicles from SOCOM raised the unit cost of the vehicle higher than the unit cost of once procured through competition, according to FY18 budget documents.

“The Army’s plan to procure a limited quantity of ground mobility vehicles (GMV) for use by airborne brigades raises concerns due to the high unit cost of the existing vehicles,” lawmakers state in the omnibus spending bill. “However, due to the urgent requirement and the advanced stage of the Special Operations Command GMV program, the agreement includes full funding for this program and supports the interim acquisition strategy for 295 A-GMV 1.1 vehicles for fielding to conventional Army airborne brigades and 317 GMV 1.1 vehicles for fielding to the United States Army Special Operations Command.”

Congress is appropriating $41 million in the bill for GMV procurement.

Congress also noted the unit price of a developmental GMV would cost more than available nondevelopmental vehicles.

The Army is planning to release a request for proposals for the competition in 2018, but it has yet to drop.