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First Gates, Now McCain Rips Army Handgun Program


Last week, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates ripped into the U.S. Army’s program to buy a new handgun for soldiers.

Now, Sen. John McCain is blasting the service’s acquisition program known as the Modular Handgun System, or MHS, to replace the Beretta M9 9mm pistol.

As my colleague Matthew Cox reported, the Republican from Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday released a report that criticized the decade-long effort as a “costly misfire” — full of red tape and wasteful.

“This failed program underscores the importance of fully reforming our broken defense acquisition system,” he said in a release.

Under the MHS program, which is estimated to cost at least $350 million, the Army plans to purchase more than 280,000 full-size handguns and 7,000 compact versions, and other services participating in the effort may order another 212,000 systems. In a break from tradition, it also plans to purchase accompanying ammunition as part of the program.

Bids from gun-makers are due in January.

Meanwhile, when asked to comment on the program in his first testimony before Congress since retiring as defense secretary in 2011, Gates said lawmakers “should call the Army secretary and the Army chief of staff before them and ‘ask why is it taking you guys 10 years? It’s a handgun for God’s sake.'”

Gates also said, “Congress should also look in the mirror when trying to assign blame for the shortcomings of the acquisition process while trying to score political points off that same process.”

–Brendan McGarry can be reached at

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