Against a backdrop of Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) development activities and accelerated MRAP All Terrain Variant (MATV) procurements, one U.S. tactical wheeled vehicle program seems to have lost some traction on a slippery procurement highway, with the current round of slipping and sliding likely to continue until the middle of February 2010.
With 36,660 trucks and 7,317 trailers fielded as of Dec. 31, 2008, the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) clearly earns the classification of “ubiquitous” in all U.S. Army formations. Entering low rate initial production in 1995, the system is now fielded in 17 different variants in both 2.5 ton and 5 ton payload classes. Associated companion trailers double that payload capacity, making the vehicle family a critical element of modern U.S. Army operations.
Deliveries on the third FMTV Production Contract (A1R) were completed in May 2009, followed by continuing deliveries under a May 2008 A1P2 production contract award. Due to corporate acquisitions and changes, the OEM for these contracts shifted from Stewart & Stevenson to Armor Holdings to BAE Systems.
Deliveries under the A1P2 award were planned to span the gap between the third production contract and the award of a competitive re-buy production contract, originally planned for May 2009.
Following months of intense competition between vehicle manufacturers, on Aug. 27, 2009, Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh Corporation based in Oshkosh, Wis., announced its receipt of the FMTV re-buy program contract from the U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.
The re-buy represented a five-year requirements contract award for the production of up to 23,000 vehicles and trailers as well as support services and engineering. The contract called for the production and delivery of 2,568 trucks and trailers, with initial test vehicle deliveries planned for mid-2010, to be followed by production vehicle deliveries later in the year.
However, within days of the award announcement, both BAE Systems and Navistar Defense, LLC, filed award protests with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
In announcing its GAO protest filing on Sept. 8, a BAE Systems release noted that the company was “asking the agency to review the decision by the U.S. Army to award a contract to a competitor for the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) rebuy program. After a detailed analysis of the information provided by the Army, before and during the formal competition debrief, the company believes that the Army did not properly evaluate the proposals, consistent with the government’s stated requirements, and the Army failed accurately to assess the various risks associated with the different proposals…”
After offering several specifics on their claim, the announcement went on to note that BAE Systems employs 3,200 people on the FMTV program at its facilities in Texas, Ohio and Michigan. Hence it wasn’t surprising when the next round of activities involved Congressional delegations.
Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX 10th District), for example, quickly announced that he would “meet with the Secretary of the Army and other high ranking Department of Defense officials when he returns to Washington this week to discuss the Army’s decision to award a military vehicle contract worth more than $3 billion to a company in Wisconsin…”
Within weeks the entire Wisconsin Congressional Delegation released its own letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in which they sought the Defense Secretary’s “assistance in preserving the integrity of the defense acquisition process as it relates to the [FMTV] competitive re-buy contract…”
And so it went.
On Dec. 14, 2009, the GAO’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law released that agency’s findings on the protests, noting, “Our office sustained, or upheld, the protests today. Our review of the record led us to conclude that the Army’s evaluation was flawed with regard to the evaluation of Oshkosh’s proposal under the capability evaluation factor, and the evaluation of Navistar’s past performance. We therefore sustained Navistar’s and BAE’s protests. We also denied a number of Navistar’s and BAE’s challenges to the award to Oshkosh, including challenges to the evaluation of Oshkosh’s price. We recommended that the Army: reevaluate the offerors’ proposals under the capability evaluation factor, in a manner consistent with the terms of the solicitation; conduct a new evaluation of Navistar’s past performance that adequately documents the agency’s judgments; and make a new selection decision. We also recommended that if, at the conclusion of the reevaluation, Oshkosh is not found to offer the best value, the agency should terminate Oshkosh’s contract for the convenience of the government. We further recommend that Navistar and BAE be reimbursed the costs of filing and pursuing the successful grounds of their protests related to their challenge of technical and past performance evaluation issues, including reasonable attorney fees. By statute, the Army has 60 days to inform our office of its actions in response to our recommendations.”
While representatives for Navistar and BAE Systems publicly welcomed the GAO decision, Oshkosh Corporation representatives were quick to highlight that, “The majority of the protesters’ claims were denied, including challenges to the evaluation of the Oshkosh Corporation price.”
“At Oshkosh, we appreciate the GAO’s thorough review and welcome the Army’s re-evaluation of the two narrow issues recommended for reconsideration. We believe that our FMTV offer was, and continues to be, the best value for the U.S. Army, our troops and the U.S. taxpayer,” said Robert G. Bohn, Oshkosh Corporation chairman and chief executive officer. “It is important to realize that today’s decision did not recommend proposal revisions nor did it recommend termination of our contract.”
Bohn added, “We believe that when these narrow issues are reconsidered, the Army’s decision to award Oshkosh Corporation the FMTV contract will be maintained.”
The company announcement added that Oshkosh Corporation would “continue to lean forward on the FMTV program, including preparation for the construction of a new 150,000-square-foot electrocoat (E-Coat) paint facility at its Oshkosh, Wis., campus in support of FMTV production and possibly other Oshkosh vehicle programs.”