Can a One-Horse Race Legitimately be Called a Competition?
As AUSA 2019 opens in Washington this morning, one of the subjects of conversation must surely be the recent widely-reported decision by the US Army to disqualify the Rheinmetall/Raytheon LYNX infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) from its Optionally-Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV), programme – currently the Army’s number two modernisation priority as the proposed replacement for the BRADLEY.
The disqualification ostensibly revolves around the contractor’s failure to provide the physical example of the proposed vehicle (only one prototype currently exists) demanded by the 1 October deadline. Although neither contractor nor the Army have publicly commented, it appears to have been a bureaucratic delay in obtaining transit permission for the vehicle, rather than any technical issue, that caused the failure. According to sources speaking to MON under conditions of confidentiality, it appears that Rheinmetall offered to hand over the vehicle ‘in bond’ to the Army in Germany – an offer that was allegedly declined.
The wider issue, MON understands, is the dogged ‘by the book’ approach apparently adopted by Army Futures Command (AFC), which is responsible for fast-track procurement initiatives, into which category OMFV falls. While it is perfectly understandable – and legitimate – that policies be established and adhered to when spending public money (MON would be among the first to draw attention to instances of deliberate abuse), surely there is an argument for bending or circumventing them when occasion demands – and when no substantive competitive or commercial advantage accrues unfairly to one party in so doing.
Regulatory adherence notwithstanding, the net results of the decision mean that for a programme that may involve over 3,000 premium-priced armoured vehicles, the service now has a choice of a single vehicle – the General Dynamics Land Systems candidate, which the company says has been specifically designed for the requirement. Which, to the mind uneducated in the finer points of bureaucratic efficiency, seems to be wildly and inappropriately singleminded. Are procurement regulations largely designed to ensure open and fair competition, thus tending towards government receiving the best possible value for money? But panic not, dear reader. The ‘competition’ may currently have but one runner – but we can rest secure in the knowledge that no career has been harmed in the making of this decision.
MON will pursue answers to the obvious questions during and after AUSA. It remains to be seen whether such answers will be forthcoming – and whether they will reveal more pertinent reasons for a decision that, on the surface and without official information, is puzzling to say the least