A spat between the Army and General Dynamics over test results of the Manpack Radio erupted Tuesday at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference when DoDBuzz asked Army Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, head of U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, if the Army had taken steps to settle the dispute over the Network Integration Evaluation's testing conditions.
General Dynamics' Manpack Radio received negative reviews from soldiers testing them at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Michael Gilmore, Director of Operational Test & Evaluation, tabbed the radio "not operationally suitable." The Manpack passed a retest at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., in less challenging conditions. Gilmore said the radio continued to demonstrate "poor reliability," according to a Bloomberg report.
However, Frank Kendall, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, still approved the awarding of a contract to General Dynamics to build 3,726 of the Manpack Radios. Infantry soldiers will carry the two-channel digital radios in their vehicles and in their packs.
General Dynamics C4 Systems President Christopher Marzilli told AOL Defense the Manpack Radio performed poorly because of unrealistic combat conditions at White Sands. "All radios had problems in that environment" because of the amount of radios emitting signals in the spectrum, Marzilli said in AOL Defense's report.
The Army took offense. The NIE was stood up precisely to mimic combat conditions. Questioning those conditions was a direct shot at the entire existence of the NIE -- a test the Army has held up as a symbol of progress in its improving acquisition arms.
Marzilli wrote a letter to Army officials apologizing for his comments. In fact, Dellarocco scrolled through his Blackberry and read directly from the letter after DoDBuzz asked if the testing conditions at White Sands needed to be changed. It's rare for an Army official to so publicly call out a defense industry president.
On Monday, the Army opened up the competition for a wider fielding of the Manpack Radio. Defense analysts suspected that Marzilli's comments could be held against General Dynamics as competitors like Harris and BAE Systems line up to fight for the multi-million dollar contract. Army leaders confirmed that would not be the case.
Bloomberg reporter Tony Cappacio asked Dellarocco if tension exists between Gilmore's agency and the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command following the dispute over the radio testing conditions. Dellarocco said no, although he did say "he sees things in black and white, we see things in shades, well I don't want to go there."