Lisa Myers (NBC News) conducted a special investigation into the Army's seemingly unwillingness to adopt an Israeli RPG defense system which has been successfully tested in field conditions. The "Trophy" system, produced by Rafael (and shown here on a Stryker vehicle), was cited by the DOD's Office of Force Transformation as a really good deal. But Army officials would rather wait five years for Raytheon to complete the development and testing of its "Quick Kill" RPG defense solution, which will be part of the Future Combat Systems program.In part two of her investigation (which aired last night), she documented how the Army bent over backwards to ensure that Raytheon remained in the competition - not that there was a competition. The Army was supposed to have a shoot-off between the two systems, but because the Raytheon system was still on the drawing board, the Army canceled the shoot-off and issued a single-source selection for the Raytheon solution. I'm shocked... shocked to discover that a military acquisition office might be biased towards one of the largest U.S. defense firms. Why, I've never heard of such outlandish behavior. I declare, I do believe I have the vapors...First of all, this might have been a good news report - in APRIL, when this issue was made public (see this DefenseTech post). Or maybe Lisa might have done an internet search and found Noah's Popular Mechanics article in August. Both articles discuss the Army's concern that, yes, this seems to be a good idea, but there are some outstanding issues:
"It is not just about giving [soldiers] an APS system. How do the soldiers work with it? How does it tie into the network? How do you know when to turn it on? When not to turn it on?" said Future Combat Systems program manager Brig. Gen. Charles Cartwright. "We could put something over there . . . overnight but have I got the logistics to be able to support," the technology.Some of you may be familiar with David Drake's Hammer's Slammers - he has written a number of scifi novels about this mercenary tank regiment, which has nuclear-powered tanks and armored cars that move around like hovercrafts. The vehicles also feature an anti-projectile defense system which, when activated, shoots out like a shotgun to defeat the incoming projectile (also good for shredding light infantry in the way). Issue is, it can be set for manual rather than automatic. These concept of operation issues need to be worked out (also see Murdoc's take on this issue).I have to tell you, Colonel Don Kotchman showed that he had clearly taken the "how to deal with the media" class that every acquisition manager has to take. Get a load of this:
Lisa Myers: Was the Raytheon system tested by the Pentagon?Col. Donald Kotchman: The Army did not specifically test the Raytheon system.Instead, Raytheon tested its own system this February.Myers: How well did the Raytheon system do in its own testing?Kotchman: I don't have that information.Myers: Were there any Pentagon officials present for the Raytheon testing?Kotchman: I do not know.----------------In May, a technical team was chosen and given the task of evaluating competing RPG defense systems. But here again, Raytheon had a leg up.Myers: Do you know how many of the 21-person technical team worked for Raytheon?Kotchman: To the best of my knowledge, none.Army documents obtained by NBC News, however, reveal that nine of the 21 technical experts as well as all the administrative personnel were from Raytheon. The team ultimately concluded that of the seven RPG defense systems examined, Raytheons was the clear winner.Raytheons Quick Kill solution which the Army concedes will not be fielded before 2011 at the earliest won out over Trophy, the Israeli system championed by the Pentagons Office of Force Transformation.Myers: It appears as though Raytheon was allowed to select itself.Kotchman: I dont know that to be a fact, and so I really can't comment on it.Priceless. Bravo, colonel, bravo. You survived the interview. Best that you can hope for. I have to say, this isn't news - that is to say, it's a shame that our acquisition process works this way, but it's normal procedure. Eisenhower was right about the military-industrial complex, we know he was right, but there's no way to fix the system short of finding a new set of honest congressmen and women, defense contractors who don't see dollar signs as the bottom line, and military acquisition officials who want to be promoted while in uniform and have a nice job when they retire.-- Jason Sigger, crossposted at Armchair GeneralistUPDATE 8:58 AM: Noah here. While I appreciate Jason's shout-outs, the real credit should go to Defense News scoopmasters Greg Grant and Barbara Opall-Rome, who did most of the original reporting on this story. I just sorta played clean-up. Oh, and if all this hasn't satisfied your RPG defense fix, check out what Murdoc has to say.UPDATE 6:48 PM: JH reminds us that there's another, potentially more interesting Israeli grenade-stopper out there. Ladies and gents: the Iron Fist.