Yesterday, General Dynamics announced that it was not submitting a bid or otherwise complaining further about the US Army’s Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program. (For details, see the stories in the Wall Street Journal, in Defense News, and on Breaking Defense.) The withdrawal ends a contentious chapter in government-industrial relations, and provides some stability for the Army’s supply base. It’s also not a surprising outcome.
That’s because GD's appeal that the RFP must necessarily include room for more Strykers fell flat, and for several reasons:
- Performance. The tracks-versus-wheels debate over mobility is more than a matter of style. Over hard-packed Arabian sand, wheeled vehicles generally perform pretty well. In Korean rice paddies, not so well. It’s reasonable that the US Army would want a tracked vehicle in this application, to drive alongside its similarly tracked Abrams, Bradleys, and Paladins. GD’s challenging the requirement was second-guessing its customer, which is not always taken well.
- Fairness. The effective exclusion of a wheeled solution was not unfair. In theory, GD could have spent the money to engineer a more economical tracked solution than a recycled Bradley. In practice, it was unlikely to succeed, but so was I, and every other armchair engineer in America. On what basis could GD claim an entitlement to a piece of the action?
- Security of supply. GD might have tried to argue that its place in the industrial base required some funding. That argument would have been thin: A.T. Kearney’s study of the industry last year for the Army Department showed that the Pentagon needs less industrial capacity backing its purchasing plans, not more. But even so, that $10 billion Saudi contract with GDLS-Canada for hundreds of new LAV-6s put paid to any claims of corporate stress. The LAV-6 is just the latest version of the vehicle family of which the Stryker is a part, and the Saudi vehicles will be built on the same production line in London, Ontario that has done most of the work on the US Army’s vehicles. So, as I noted for the Atlantic Council back in February, GDLS will be just fine for some time.
So congratulations, Tank & Automotive Command. BAE Systems will be funded, and GDLS is already funded. The Army will have its industrial base, whether it needs it or not. But most importantly, you will get those ancient M113s out of the fleet.