Army and Marine Corps leaders have pushed back by two weeks the date for competitors to respond to the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles request for proposals, even after officials have touted the program's recent success.
JLTV officials released the RFP on Jan. 26 and gave defense companies until March 13 to respond. Service officials have since pushed back the due date for bids on competing the engineering and manufacturing development phase to March 27.
"The extension was given to allow all potential offers time to respond to the current RFP requirements, and to address forthcoming additional proposal requirements for offerors to submit agreements with Non-Government Organizations who will be involved in a technology readiness assessment in support of a Milestone B decision," said Army Col. Dave Bassett, the project manager for Army Tactical Vehicles.
The decision to delay the RFP response date comes as something of a surprise after Bassett said Feb. 23 the defense industry was ready to design the JLTV.
“Industry, they don’t need another two years to design this vehicle. They are ready now to respond with mature designs to our solicitation,” Bassett said at the Association of the U.S. Army's Winter Symposium.
Three competitors will receive contracts for the EMD phase to be awarded in May. A cost ceiling of $52 million was set for the EMD phase per contractor. The production phase contract is not expected until 2015.
The Army and Marine Corps surprised many upon the release of the RFP after program officials slashed the cost ceiling for the Humvee replacement by about $100,000 per vehicle. The ceiling dropped from $350,000 to $250,000 after officials from both services agreed to relax weight requirements.
Army and Marine Corps leaders told House lawmakers on Thursday that JLTV was in great shape. They reassured a House Armed Services Committee panel that the vehicles would be strong enough to protect tomorrow's troops from roadside bombs, but be light enough to ride aboard Navy warships or be slung under helicopters up to certain altitudes.
William Taylor, the Marine Corps' program executive officer for land systems, said JLTV also was a model of acquisition reform.
"We have a firm handle on the program now, by virtue of what we went through in the technology demonstration phase," he said. "This program has been a model in terms of doing everything Congress and OSD had asked it to do."
That includes "streamlining the timeline to get to production," which Taylor said had been cut in half from 32 months to 16 months.
Three defense teams have already built JLTV prototypes and a fourth, Oskosh Defense, has said it also will submit a bid for the EMD phase. The AM General-General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin-BAE Armor Holdings and Navistar Defense-Northrop Grumman teams are considered the front-runners.
Ford has also shown interest, but the auto giant has said it did not have time to submit in the timeframe set out by the RFP. Members of Congress have come to Ford's aid, asking Army officials to make concessions in the competition to allow Ford to compete.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told Army leaders on Feb. 17 at a House Armed Services Committee hearing that Ford could offer Joint Marine-Army Vehicle for $225,000 per copy featuring more armor at less overall weight.
Army Secretary John McHugh responded saying it would be unfair and potentially illegal to alter the competition to fit one company's needs.
"It would be a very tenuous decision to pull back an RFP based on a single manufacturer saying what they may or may not be able to do when they chose not to compete. Now, Ford can submit at any time during the process an unsolicited program that we'll fully consider. But we can't pull plugs on developmental programs where everybody else is playing by the same rules because a single competitor -- as great as Ford is -- says here's what we promise you we're going to do. It's just, I think, would be a bad precedent to set," McHugh said.
Army Lt. Gen. Bob Lennox, a top modernization official, conceded to the HASC panel on Thursday that JLTV "will not be a cure-all -- it won't replace everything on the battlefield." The Army and Marines still want their other, heavier vehicle programs, including the Army's Ground Combat Vehicle and the Marines' planned new amphibious vehicle.