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26 Feb 10. Army Times reported that, with Pentagon approval newly in hand, the Army on Feb. 25 released its request for proposal for the Ground Combat Vehicle, the service’s planned next-generation full-spectrum-combat troop carrier.

“I am really hoping for three solid proposals to enter into the technology development phase,” Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s vice chief of staff, told an audience later that day here at a convention of the Association of the U.S. Army. Chiarelli addressed the gathering via video teleconference. Interested companies have until April 26 to submit their proposals. Army officials have said they plan in September to award up to three contracts for the GCV program’s 27-month technology development phase.

Chiarelli said he rejected the idea that the new vehicle program is Future Combat Systems “warmed over.” He told the audience that he had read the requirements document several times and is certain the program is taking a new direction while incorporating lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The RFP was delayed two weeks as the Defense Department and the Army discussed details of the service’s acquisition strategy, said Maj. Gen. John Bartley, program executive officer for integration.

The Army wants to issue the RFP before finishing its formal analysis of alternatives, an unusual move that Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter eventually approved.

By approving a materiel development decision, Carter is saying he is willing to consider that there is a need for a ground combat vehicle, Bartley said.

“The decision of whether or not there will be a GCV will be at milestone A” in September, he said. The finished analysis of alternatives also will be considered then.

More information

Bartley said that by carrying out the RFP and the analysis of alternatives in parallel, the Army will have more information to decide on the GCV. The service will be able to consider industry’s proposals, the cost of those proposals and whatever alternatives to a new vehicle may be out there, he said.

“If the analysis says the gap can be filled by product improving the Bradley [armored fighting vehicle] or the Abrams [tank] or a Stryker [personnel carrier], then the GCV goes away and the Army looks at upgrading those systems.

That’s a very big possibility,” Bartley said.

However, that is not the likely outcome, said Marlin Carlsen, deputy program manager of the Ground Combat Vehicle project.“We anticipate the [analysis of alternatives] will largely validate what we have,” Carlsen said.

This is partly because Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) did a lot of that analysis last summer when developing the requirements for a new vehicle, Carlsen said. That work will support this spring’s alternatives study, he said. However, if that study does come back “with some insights that we should be doing otherwise, we could pull the plug, not make contract award, and we’ll be able to not do a GCV and [the Defense Department] and the Army can move forward with some other alternative,” he said.

Cost-Plus contracts

The RFP indicates that the award will be a cost-plus contract, not the
fixed-price deal that President Obama’s administration favors for most large weapon programs. Army officials have said that cost-plus contracts during the technology development phase allow for more innovation and risk-taking.

One purpose of the technology development phase is to continue to refine the vehicle requirements, Carlsen said.

The vehicle should be designed to take on more armor, power and cooling if needed in the future, he said. In the past, this might have been considered “gold plating,” but growth capacity will be essential to make it an adaptive vehicle, he said.

“From a blast perspective, [it will be] more survivable than an MRAP, as
survivable from a ballistic perspective as a Bradley, as mobile as an Abrams and more lethal than a Bradley,” Carlsen said.

The RFP does not i

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