WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is taking a step back on its effort to replace its Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle after receiving only one bid in its competitive prototyping program, but this does not mean the end of the road for the future optionally manned fighting vehicle, service leaders told reporters Jan. 16 at the Pentagon.
Until now, the Army has been tight-lipped ever since it appeared the competitive effort was no longer competitive, as the service had received only one prototype submission.
“Today the U.S. Army will cancel the current solicitation for the Section 804 Middle Tier acquisition rapid prototyping phase of the [optionally manned fighting vehicle]. Based on feedback and proposals received from industry, we have determined it is necessary to revisit the requirements, acquisition strategy and schedule moving forward,” said Bruce Jette, the Army’s acquisition chief.
“Since its inception, the OMFV program has represented an innovative approach to Army acquisition by focusing on delivering an essentially new capability to armored brigade combat teams under a significantly reduced timeline compared to traditional acquisition efforts. The Army asked for a great deal of capability on a very aggressive schedule and, despite an unprecedented number of industry days and engagements to include a draft request for proposals over a course of nearly two years, all of which allowed industry to help shape the competition, it is clear a combination of requirements and schedule overwhelmed industry’s ability to respond within the Army’s timeline,” Jette said.
“The need remains clear. OMFV is a critical capability for the Army, and we will be pressing forward after revision."
In October, the Army ended up with only one bidder in the OMFV competition — General Dynamics Land Systems. The service had planned to hold a prototyping competition, selecting two winning teams to build prototypes with a downselect to one at the end of an evaluation period.
Defense News broke the news that another expected competitor — a Raytheon and Rheinmetall team — had been disqualified from the competition because it had failed to deliver a bid sample to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, by the deadline.
A bellwether for what was to come in the prototyping competition happened earlier in the year when BAE Systems, which manufactures the Bradley, decided not compete, Defense News first reported.
And, according to several sources, Hanwha also considered competing but decided against the opportunity.
The CEO of BAE Systems’ U.S.-based business, Jerry DeMuro, told Defense News in a recent interview that the company didn’t regret its decision not to pursue OMFV as the requirements and schedule were previously laid out, but said it continues to talk to the Army about future opportunities.
“It was a very challenging program,” DeMuro said. “It always comes down to three things: requirements, schedule and funding. The schedule was very, very aggressive, especially early on, and at the same time trying to get leap-ahead technologies. There’s a little bit of dichotomy there.
“The requirements that were being asked for was going to require, in our estimation, significantly more development that could not be done in that time frame and significantly more capital than the Army was willing to apply.”
Jette said the Army had a large number of vendors interested in the effort, hosted 11 industry days and had a number of draft requests for proposals on the street, but, he said, “it’s always a challenge for industry. I was on the outside two years ago, and you get an RFP in after the discussions — it still cannot align with what you thought, and that is what you have to respond to is the RFP.”
The acquisition chief believes what happened in this case is there was “a large number interested, they started paring down, which started causing us some uncertainty about the competition, but we still had viable vendors in. And when you get out to actually delivering on those requirements, we had one vendor who had challenges meeting compliance issues with delivery, and the second vendor had difficulty meeting responsive issues, critical issues within the requirement — not knowing how to fulfill that.”
When pressed as to whether GDLS met the requirements with its bid sample, the Army’s program executive officer for ground combat systems, Maj. Gen. Brian Cummings, who was present at the media roundtable along with the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team leader Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, said the Army could not discuss results and findings regarding the company’s submission.
Several sources confirmed a letter was circulating around Capitol Hill from GDLS to the Army secretary that strongly urged the service to continue with the program without delay.
So now it’s back to the drawing board to ensure the Army gets the prototyping program right.
Jette took pains to stress that the OMFV effort is not a failed program with the likes of Comanche, Future Combat Systems, Crusader or the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter. “This is a continuing program. This is an initial effort at trying to get to a programmatic solution yielded, input that we needed to evaluate, which said we needed to revise our approach, not abandon the program or that it was a failure.”
Some major failed programs in the past, Jette noted, were canceled after spending large amounts of money and still moving along even though problems were identified as the service proceeded. Crusader cost about $2 billion, Comanche about $6.9 billion and Future Combat Systems about $19 billion, Jette said.
“We’ve spent a very small amount of money in trying to get to where we are, and in fact a good bit of the technology development that was part of the assessment phase is still totally recoverable," he added.
Army Futures Command chief Gen. Mike Murray told the same group of reporters he is hesitant to call OMFV a program because it’s a prototyping program, not a program of record. “We are still committed to this. This is like a tactical pause,” he said.
The effort so far “gave us a great deal of clarity in understanding what is truly doable,” Jette noted.
Army leaders said they would be unable to estimate how long its renewed analysis on the program might take before proceeding with a new solicitation to industry, or what that would mean for the program’s schedule in its entirety. The original plan was to field OMFV in 2026.
Last month, Congress hacked funding for the OMFV prototyping program, providing $205.6 million in fiscal 2020, a reduction of $172.8 million, which would have made it impossible to conduct a competitive prototyping effort. What happens to that funding or congressional support for the overall program is unclear.
While sources confirmed to Defense News in early October that the failure with the OMFV prototyping effort revealed rifts between the acquisition community and the Army’s new modernization command, Army Futures Command, Jette said while there is a bit of “scuffing here and there" the two organizations are working together “much better.”
Murray added it is his view that the acquisition community and Army Futures Command is moving forward as “one team” with “one goal in mind.”
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.