Modular Handgun System Missteps Raised in SecAF Confirmation Hearing

The Army recently approved Full Material Release on Sig Sauer’s M18 (front) and M17 (rear) Modular Handgun System. (Photo: Sig Sauer Inc.)
The Army recently approved Full Material Release on Sig Sauer’s M18 (front) and M17 (rear) Modular Handgun System. (Photo: Sig Sauer Inc.)

At a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, a North Carolina lawmaker asked Barbara Barrett, President Donald Trump's nominee to be secretary of the Air Force, how she would prevent another program from becoming as complicated as the Army's Modular Handgun System effort.

The Army adopted the 9mm XM17 and XM18, made by Sig Sauer, in January 2017, as its new service handgun. But the Air Force started the program, which grew to a 680-page requirements document, said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina.

"The Army says they finally had to take it over to get the job done, by the way," he said. "It then went through a process of procurement and acquisition that took about 10 years."

The Army began working on the MHS around 2009 and launched a contract competition, which Sig ultimately won, in the summer of 2015.

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Tillis is not the first to criticize the MHS program as overly complicated. Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley often used the program's shortened 367-page document as an example of the often byzantine acquisition system.

"I fully expect that we had [a request for proposal] that was 300 pages for the next-generation paper clip," Tillis said, adding that he wants to ensure the Air Force continues on its path of simplifying the acquisition system.

"Tell me what you think we are already doing to address this ... and give me your assurance that these sorts of things and these wastes won't continue," he said.

Barrett credited former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson for "having really tackled" the broken acquisition system.

"Secretary Wilson, I understand, took the acquisition approval process ... from 14 approval levels to four," Barrett said. "That cuts out who knows how much paper, but a lot of hands moving through it.

"It would be something we would look to get better, if I am confirmed, during my tenure," she said.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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