The U.S. Army’s Contracting Command-New Jersey (ACC-NJ) at Picatinny Arsenal posted their Request for Proposal (RFP) for the XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) Program on Friday, August 28, 2015.

The 351-page document (PDF) strongly suggests that servicemen and taxpayers are getting the proverbial shaft to benefit large defense contractors, yet again.

The RFP (which you’re invited to download and review at your leisure at the link above) appears to be for a bundled or “packaged deal” contract. I called the program’s primary point of contact, Vincent F. Turco, in an attempt to verify that reading of the RFP.

Unfortunately, Mr. Turco is not allowed to discuss even such broad and important questions.

The contract appears to require that competing companies to submit an RFP containing all of the following:

  • service-grade full-size pistols
  • service-grade compact pistols
  • fancy “general officer” pistols both full-size and compact
  • cutaway and demonstration models of each pistol
  • blank conversion kits
  • various kinds of test barrels
  • man marker round conversion kits to be compatible with the M1041 9mm UTM round
  • standard and extended magazines
  • bore brushes
  • suppressor kits (full-size and compact)
  • prototype ball ammunition for the pistols (referred to as XM1152)
  • prototype hollowpoint ammunition (referred to as the XM1153 special purpose cartridge)
  • dummy cartridges
  • cutaway and demonstration models of each cartridge
  • profile and alignment gauges
  • several kinds of holsters
  • packaging for all of the above
  • technical documents for all of the above
  • training packages
  • etc

If this accurate, then the RFP is written as a “winner take all” affair favoring large defense contractors with extensive resources, instead of being constructed as a progressive à la carte process which would ensure that taxpayers get the best utilization of their dollars, and the U.S. soldier gets the best possible handgun system to replace the long-serving Beretta M9.

Sadly, this is par for the course in the United States Army, which has a long and infamous history of supplying weapons that makes military contractors wealthy at the expense of soldiers in the field.

The correct way to ensure that the military gets the best equipment—and taxpayers the best value from that equipment—is for the military to first determine the performance characteristics they desire in a handgun cartridge.

The military would then submit an RFP to determine the XM1152 ball round and XM1153 special purpose round (hollowpoint bullet) that best provides that performance. Ammunition makers would participate in this portion of the contract, focusing only on their area of expertise.

Once the winning caliber and cartridges have been selected, an RFP should then be issued to handgun manufacturers for XM17 Modular Handgun System pistols chambered for winning calibers/cartridges.

Handgun manufacturers would concentrate on their area of expertise, providing low-recoiling, rugged, accurate handguns that can be utilized effectively by the largest percentage of troops.

Once the cartridges and handguns have been selected, only then should the Army concern itself with submitting bids for the best suppressor kits from suppressor manufacturers tailored to the specific cartridge and handgun combination, the best holsters tailored to the specific handgun design and retention and deployment characteristics from holster manufacturers, etc.

The current MHS RFP seems to be designed to maximize profits for the primary contractor, and not to provide the most effective handgun system for our servicemen, or the best value to taxpayers.

This “final” RFP needs to be scrapped, and fresh eyes need to come at the issue from a perspective that provides the best value and performance, not the highest profit margins to defense contractors and the best chance of post-Army defense industry employment for those writing the contracts.