The Pentagon's acquisition community breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Government Accountability Office denied protests to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle Program award by Northrop Grumman and Textron.
If these major program protests had been upheld they might well have brought Pentagon acquisition efforts to a slow and painful grind, even slower and more painful than they already suffer from, according to several senior acquisition officials with whom I've spoken over the last several weeks.
The prose from the Joint Light Tactical vehicle program office's Wednesday afternoon press release was bland. "The Government Accountability Office (GAO), today, denied the protests of Northrop Grumman and Textron Marine & Land Systems against the awards of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) Technology Development (TD) contracts."
But the prose from some Army sources was vibrant. You could hear -- literally -- some in the Army whooping it up that the GAO had found in their favor. However, the Army still faces a very fundamental problem, one it shares with the Marines. It does not have a clear and viable vehicle strategy. The J-8 is working on the issue but the budget is being rebuilt as we speak and the two services are buying an insupportable range of vehicles -- up-armored Humvees, MRAPs, FCS and JLTVs. And the move to Afghanistan will force purchase of a fairly large quantity of vehicles, leaving the services with less flexibility to make a rational, long-term decision.
The three JLTV technology development contracts at stake had a combined value of only $166 million, but the program could well be worth as much as $40 billion in the long term. And if the GAO had upheld the protests by Northrop Grumman and Textron Marine & Land Systems it would have left acquisition officials wary each time they prepared an RFI or contract award. Major programs such as T-Sat have already suffered from milder version of such paralysis in the wake of the CSAR-X and tanker protests.