U.S. Army vehicle competition halts after lone entry falls short: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army will go back to the drawing board after an effort to replace the Bradley fighting vehicle proved too challenging for industry, a Pentagon official said on Thursday.

The U.S Army has embarked on an ambitious modernization task focusing its efforts and funds on six priorities including a better way to precisely fire weapons over a long distance, a new combat vehicle, a new helicopter, better missile defenses and networks.

“Today the U.S. Army will cancel the current solicitation” for the rapid prototyping phase for the optionally manned fighting vehicle (OMFV),” Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, told reporters at the Pentagon. He said “it’s a tactical pause,” because the Army is committed to getting a replacement for the Bradley.

“Based on feedback and proposals received from industry we have determined it is necessary to revisit the requirements, acquisition strategy and schedule before moving forward,” Jette said. He did not give a timeline for when the Army would restart the competition.

A new vehicle, which could be self driving, could be worth $35 to $40 billion over the life of the program, according to Jim McAleese, of the defense consulting firm McAleese and Associates.

General Dynamics was the only company to submit a design on time for this phase of the competition.

Jette said that in the past more than 10 companies had shown interest in participating.

Raytheon recently hired a lobbyist to help position itself.

The cancellation happens just weeks before the anticipated release of the Pentagon’s 2021 defense budget. This program was one of the Army’s top modernization priorities.

Jette told reporters the Army has asked industry to do a lot in a very compressed time frame.

The Army has recently combed through its own programs and shifted here more than $30 billion from programs in the coming years to invest in top modernization priorities to meet a rising Chinese and Russian threat.

Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Sandra Maler and David Gregorio