UPDATED with expert comment WASHINGTON: The Army is rebooting its Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program to replace the 1980s-vintage M2 Bradley, the service announced at 4pm today. The service said it will cancel the current solicitation — an accelerated Section 804 acquisition — and “revisit the requirements, acquisition strategy and schedule before moving forward.”
The Raytheon-Rheinmetall Lynx, recently disqualified from the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle competition to replace the M2 Bradley.
A rival team of Raytheon and Rheinmetall had tried to offer a variant of the German Lynx armored vehicle, but the Army disqualified their offer. That left only one vendor, General Dynamics, qualified for the competition.
The official reason was that the only prototype couldn’t make it to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds from Germany for tests by the required date, although rumor said the Lynx hadn’t met the Army’s requirements and the missed deadline was an excuse. That decision was controversial in Congress, which slashed OMFV funding by 45 percent, and, reportedly, in the Army itself. Our colleague Jen Judson wrote at the time that the chief of Army Futures Command, Gen. Mike Murray, insisted on disqualifying Lynx and moving ahead, even with only one competitor, while the civilian Army Acquisition Executive, Assistant Secretary Bruce Jette, wanted to give Raytheon and Rheinmetall more time.
“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,” Jette told reporters at the Pentagon. This initial effort, he said, while cancelled, still “gave us a great deal of clarity in understanding what is truly doable.”
That would strongly imply that, since it’s Raytheon-Rheinmetall that didn’t meet the delivery deadline, it was General Dynamics that didn’t meet “critical issues with the requirement” — and that the requirement may have asked for things that were not “truly doable.”
“The most prudent means of ensuring long-term programmatic success is to get this multi-billion-dollar effort correct,” Gen. Murray said in the Army’s official statement. “We are going to take what we have learned and apply it to the OMFV program to develop our path and build a healthy level of competition back into the program.”
“We remain committed to the OMFV program as it is our second-highest modernization priority, and the need for this ground combat vehicle capability is real. It is imperative we get it right for our soldiers,” Jette stated. “The Army asked for a great deal of capability on a very aggressive schedule…. Despite an unprecedented number of industry days and engagements, to include a draft request for proposal over the course of nearly two years — all of which allowed industry to help shape this competition — it is clear a combination of requirements and schedule overwhelmed industry’s ability to respond within the Army’s timeline.”
The reboot represents the first major stumble in the Army’s nascent modernization drive, for which the service cut or cancelled over 180 programs to free up $32 billion for its 31 priority programs, grouped in six categories. While the top-priority category is missiles and artillery – known as Long-Range Precision Fires – the second priority is Next Generation Combat Vehicles, which includes the Bradley replacement and an array of armed robots.
So is the OMFV decision a major defeat for Army modernization, a leading indicator that the new program will collapse like the Ground Combat Vehicle and Future Combat Systems programs that preceded it? Or is it a sign the service is living up to its promise to “fail fast” on the Silicon Valley model, trying new ideas ASAP but rapidly recognizing problems and correcting them, rather than drive resolutely down dead ends as it did on FCS?
One retired Army three-star and longtime advocate of armored vehicle modernization, the Heritage Foundation’s Thomas Spoehr, was pessimistic. “I think it is a set-back for Army modernization,” he told me in an email “Having two competitors is not a precondition for success: The Navy does not have two competitors for nuclear aircraft carriers, for example.”
“The key is whether the one submission they received substantially met their requirements,” Spoehr went on. “If not, then perhaps it was necessary to revisit the requirements.
“But if the Army made the decision primarily to bring in more competition,” he said, “then I think that was a mistake and will cost them momentum and general support for their overall modernization programs. For better or worse, this decision is going to be perceived as yet another failure in the Army’s search for a replacement for the Bradley, following in the wake of FCS and GCV.”
Former Pentagon acquisition reformer Andrew Hunter, now at thinktank CSIS, was much more sanguine. “My view is that the Army has appropriately taken action to course correct on OMFV,” Hunter told me. “The limited nature of industry’s response is a good indicator that the Army needed to revisit the requirements and acquisition strategy, and that’s what they’ve committed to doing.”
“Industry is sometimes seen as going along with whatever requirements DoD specifies in order to win contracts and market share and trying to figure out how to make it work later,” Hunter added. “That’s not what happened here.”
“This is how 804s should work,” added acquisition guru Bill Greenwalt, referring to how the now-canceled contract used a streamlined process called a Section 804 Middle Tier Acquisition. “You can either execute in five years or, when you find out you can’t, you kill them, preferably in the second or third year year.”
“Thankfully, they pulled the plug before they spent a lot of money, and that reinforces the fail fast approach,” said Greenwalt, who’s played a leading role in acquisition reform on both the Senate staff and in the Pentagon. “You might remember McCain criticized the Army’s history of running programs for decades, spending tens of billions of dollars on them, and ending up cancelling them with no capability. 804s were designed to disincentivize or limit that kind of nonsense.”
Retired lieutenant general, former armor officer, and Association of the US Army Vice-President Guy Swan agreed. “The CFT [Cross Functional Team] lead, as well as the Army Futures Command leadership, made this expeditious decision now so the US Army doesn’t wait 15 years and spend $20 billion dollars only to get a suboptimal system,” he said. “The key is overmatch, and the current program was going to only achieve parity with adversaries.”
“This should be viewed as an example of what Army Futures Command was designed to do,” Swan told me. (SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.).


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here