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Army’s M4 Follies Continue

by: Matthew Potter
August 20, 2012

Category: Business Line, Colt, Colt Defense, Companies, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, Events, production program, Protest, Services, U.S. Army | RSS 2.0

The United States military has over the last decade become to rely on the M4 carbine model of the standard M16 rifle. This is basically a M16 with a shorter barrel that was found more useful in the close combat fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The M4 originally was intended to supplement the M16 as a vehicle crew weapon. Since 2001 the U.S. Army has bought thousands of M4 from privately owned Colt.

The M4 has had a mixed combat record with complaints about range, jamming and stopping power. The Army has since 1990 tried multiple times to build a new replacement rifle for the M16 most recently with the cancelled XM-8 system. This does live on in the form of the XM-25 Punisher version which is a squad level weapon that fires 25mm airburst rounds. This is manufactured by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and is seeing trials in Afghanistan.

Like a great deal of weapons the Army has relied on a sole source for the M4. They do own the technical data and in April awarded a production contract to rival Remington. Colt protested that decision.

Now the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has ruled on the protest upholding Colt’s claim. The GAO based their decision on a review of how the Army applied their source selection criteria and found it wanting. This means that in their view Colt’s proposal was not evaluated fairly against Remington’s. The GAO denied all other claims by COlt.

After the protest is upheld the selecting Agency will go back and review the decision. They may decide that it was done properly and maintain the contract with Remington, agree to a new contest, or in very rare cases throw out the original award and give it to the challenger. There is now no timeline when this decision will be made and Remington will have to stop work on their M4 contract.

At the same time the Army continues another attempt to get a new combat rifle. Various bidders have prototypes in test that could then lead to a formal solicitation. That program though is in its early days and it will be a few more years before a decision is made on production of a new system. The winner of that will see a huge amount of work as often the standard U.S. weapon is adopted by many different countries across the globe.

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