| WASHINGTON, March 24
WASHINGTON, March 24 The U.S. Army said on
Monday that it would delay until April 4 making a ruling on a
protest filed by General Dynamics Corp about a new
competition for armored vehicles.
General Dynamics filed a protest with the Army on Feb. 14,
arguing that the Army's rules for a competition to replace
nearly 2,900 Vietnam-era M113 infantry carriers were skewed to
favor BAE Systems Plc's Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The company is also pressing U.S. lawmakers to intervene in
the Army's Armed Multi-purpose Vehicle (AMPV) competition and to
mandate that a mixed fleet includes a version of both BAE's
Bradleys and General Dynamics' wheeled Stryker vehicles.
General Dynamics spokesman Pete Keating said the Army told
his company it needed more time given "the complexity of the
issues involved in the protest."
Army spokeswoman Ashley Givens gave no details, but
confirmed the ruling was now expected April 4.
Keating said General Dynamics was evaluating its options in
case the Army rejected the protest. If that happens, the company
would have 10 days to lodge a protest with the congressional
Government Accountability Office, which rules on contract
disputes. The company could also take its case to federal court.
BAE Systems argues that the Army cannot afford further
delays since the existing M113 infantry vehicles are not suited
to protect U.S. soldiers against direct fire attacks by today's
more powerful rocket-propelled grenades and other threats.
Mark Signorelli, vice president and general manager of
combat vehicles for BAE, said the Army had been very open and
transparent about its requirements for the new vehicles, and had
already extended the development program to five years.
"They've been very conscious of and attentive to industry
needs," he said, noting that the Army issued its final request
for proposal after roughly two years of dialogue with industry
General Dynamics contends it would not have enough time or
data to develop a Bradley-like vehicle on the Army's schedule,
and has even suggested a teaming arrangement with BAE - although
The company said that similar arrangements exist on other
weapons programs, including the Navy's Virginia-class attack
submarines to ensure continued work for both General Dynamics
and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.
Keating said the Army would save money if it opted for a
mixed fleet of Stykers and Bradleys, since some of the required
vehicles such as ambulances and command-and-control centers did
not need to be tracked or a heavily armored. General Dynamics'
mixed fleet proposal would give 56 percent of the vehicles to
BAE's Signorelli said he was convinced that BAE had a "very
compelling and competitive offering for the Army that met all
the requirements and would protect U.S. troops, but said the
Stryker based vehicle was not sufficiently armored.
"Replacing a vehicle that doesn't meet the requirements with
a vehicle that doesn't meet the requirements is a little
counterintuitive," he said. "If the vehicle doesn't meet the
requirements, then the cost savings are irrelevant."
Signorelli said BAE was preparing a competitive bid and
expected other firms to bid for the contract, one of few being
awarded in the current, more constrained budget environment.
He said BAE believed it could accelerate the design work on
the new vehicle and complete it in four years instead of the
five years designated in the Army's procurement plan.
Given the high level of commonality with the current Bradley
vehicles, he said the Army could also shorten the testing
process for the new vehicles and field them more quickly.
The Army's current plan for the procurement calls for
proposals to be submitted by May 28, with a contract to be
awarded in late November.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Ken Wills)