Army Wasted Millions Seeking Rifles It Did Not Need, Pentagon Watchdog Finds

By Dan Parsons

The Army wasted at least $14 million on a recently aborted quest to find new rifles it does not need, an analysis of the program by the Pentagon’s spending watchdog finds. 

The Army’s deputy chief of staff failed to justify seeking a replacement for the M-4 carbine that troops currently carry, the Department of Defense Inspector General wrote in a report published Sept. 16. 

“The Army Deputy Chief of Staff … inappropriately approved and validated the requirements document used to support the establishment of the individual carbine program,” the report reads. “As a result, the Army wasted about $14 million on a competition to identify a source to supply new carbines it does not need.

Over the 20-year life cycle of the 501,289 carbines the Army planned to buy, it would spend $2.52 billion, the report says. The Army’s “own analysis suggests [the procurement] can be delayed for another 10 years with no impact on readiness,” it reads. 

The process to find an M4 replacement began in 2008, when then-Secretary of the Army Pete Geren requested that service officials find commercially available rifles that could best the current design.

The audit was launched in March after the Pentagon IG and lawmakers questioned the need to replace the M-4 carbine.

The Army vetted eight contestant rifles, fired tens of thousands of rounds through each, and found itself at square one. The competition was summarily canceled in June, after none of the carbines tested hit the service’s reliability target.

Already under way, the audit was completed despite the program's termination.

Brig. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, who heads program executive office soldier, said in June that the Army simply did not find the capability it was after in the rifles submitted for the competition. 

“The intent was to find if there was a weapon that could meet a much greater standard in terms of requirements that were challenging, but achievable,” Ostrowski said. “The Army is in a position where it must conclude the IC competition because none of the competitors met the minimum requirements. This was not a test-fix-test venue. This was a binary venue: Pass or fail.”

The Army stands to recoup $382 million it can “put to better use,” of which $375 million was programmed procurement funding. The other $7 million was set aside for research, development, testing and evaluation. Another $2.14 billion in expenditures will be avoided through 2018 as a result of the termination, the report says. 

Research and development funding set aside in the Army’s fiscal year 2013 budget has been reprogrammed into operation and maintenance accounts, Michael A. Ramsey, director of investment for the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for budget, wrote in comments to the IG published with the report.

“The Army believes strongly in providing the best equipment available to our service men and women,” Ramsey wrote. “I am confident the Army will continue to prudently manage our inventory of rifles and carbines in the most cost-effective manner.”

IC procurement funding allocated in fiscal years 2015 to 2018 are under review and will be funneled to other Army priorities, Ramsey wrote. Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, deputy for acquisition and systems management for the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said that money remains with the “carbine” line item, which also supports procurement of the upgraded M4A1 and the standby M16 rifles. 

The Army plans to continue fielding the M4A1 carbine and upgrading older M4s to that rifle, which has a heavier barrel and a fully automatic setting rather than the three-round burst setting on the M4. The Army’s 2014 budget request includes plans to purchase 12,000 M4A1 carbines for just over $21 million.

“The Army is currently reviewing the right mix of M4/M16 capabilities for the near- and mid-term,” Greene said in his comments on the report. “Once that decision is made, the Army will either execute the procurement funds in the carbine line to procure additional M4A1s beyond [fiscal year] 14 or reallocate funding into other programs within the Army.”

Peter Bechtel, director of capabilities integration, prioritization and analysis with the Army deputy chief of staff G-3/5/7, said the review is part of the overall ongoing "small arms weapons strategy" development.

“The path forward includes assessment and analysis of current individual weapons, optics and training to determine if additional capabilities in range and lethality are needed to avoid overmatch by potential adversaries,” he wrote in comments on the IG report.

Topics: Armaments, Small Arms

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