Army to re-start bidding process for new $40B ground combat vehicle program

The service has canceled its current request for bid proposals and will issue a new one within a couple of months.

The Army was already in the process of selecting the winners for the new ground combat vehicle program. The Army was expected to make an announcement on its selection at the end of September or the beginning of October, but now the service is rethinking its requirements for the new vehicle.

Starting over means the selection decision will slip by about six months, said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings.

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All of the companies interested in the contract would have to resubmit bids.

“While this decision will result in a re-start of the source selection process, these adjustments are expected to avert any significant program modifications and delays in the future,” Cummings said. “These changes will posture the Army to deliver the first production vehicle within seven years from the date of initial contract award.”

The Army was planning to select as many as three winners in the competition for a $40 billion ground combat vehicle program that is sure to receive close scrutiny from members of Congress.

The contracts would be for the technology demonstration phase of the program. 

The Army has been evaluating bids from three industry teams that feature many of the nation's top defense contractors. General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and BAE Systems are all vying for the project, which is one of the few major spending initiatives in the pipeline at the Pentagon.

The service is budgeting $7.6 billion for research and development on the project. Once that is completed, the Army plans to go down to two contracting teams for the engineering and development phase. In late 2015, a final winner will be selected to start producing the new model. The Army will equip the first battalion with the ground combat vehicle in 2017. 

The Army projects that the production phase of the program will cost $32 billon, and plans to buy about 1,450 of the vehicles, which are designed to eventually replace the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle made by BAE Systems. The new combat vehicle will be on tracks, just like the Bradley, and weigh more than 50 tons. The Army will be able to tack on additional armor and protective systems to make it withstand explosive threats.

The Army recently partnered with the Pentagon’s acquisition office to “review the Ground Combat Vehicle core elements, including acquisition strategy, vehicle capabilities, operational needs, program schedule, cost, performance and technological specifications,” said Paul Mehney, spokesman for the ground vehicle program.

“The focus of this “Red Team” review was to prioritize the vehicle’s achievable capabilities within a seven-year development, which is minimum period of time to properly design, develop and test a new vehicle,” he added.

Based on this review, the Army decided to rewrite its request for proposals.  

The new ground combat vehicle became a crucial project last year after Defense Secretary Robert Gates scrapped the Army’s plans for combat vehicles under the defunct $160 billion Future Combat Systems (FCS) program — previously the Army’s most sweeping modernization effort. 

Gates scrapped the manned ground vehicle portion of FCS because the vehicles, as designed, would not have adequately protected soldiers from roadside bombs. 

Gen. George Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, has pledged to make the new ground combat vehicle program a model of “acquisition reform.” 

But the program is already attracting significant congressional scrutiny. Congressional sources and defense insiders predict the Army will have to make some sacrifices in order to pay for the hefty program and still have money left for upgrading and maintaining other combat vehicle fleets.