Following up on a Sources Sought released back in 2012, the US Army is moving forward with a potential acquisition for the next-generation Semi-Auto Sniper System (SASS), the aptly named “Compact-SASS” (CSASS) through a best-value contract. The current SASS is the M110, manufactured by Knights Armament.
Update: As some eagle-eyed readers have pointed out (and I missed), the Statement of Objectives includes the option to upgrade the existing fleet. More details on this option at the end of the post.
Offerors looking to compete in this requirement have the option to submit no more than two (2) proposal(s) to acquire a new system or to retrofit the existing M110 SASS. The contractor shall manufacture, produce, and support the CSASS. The contractor shall provide for all necessary labor, material, supplies, services, facilities, and equipment to perform the requirements of the Statement of Objectives (SOO) in Section C of the formal Request for Proposal (RFP).
Reducing weight is a major priority. The CSASS looks to add many features that have been developed for the commercial market including: match-style triggers, configurable rail systems, collapsible stocks, muzzle devices, and muzzle-device compatible Q/D suppressors.
It’s important to note that this is not an actual solicitation, this is a pre-solicitation. The Army commonly releases pre-solicitations to prime the industry on the likely requirements and to give them time to tool up and test new designs for a future formal RFP.
Current recognizable manufacturers that have added themselves to the “Interested Vendors” group include: (Note- Vendors do not have to add themselves to this list. Often companies will not add themselves to avoid telegraphing their interest to competitors. There are likely many more prominent names looking into this.):
- Patriot Ordnance Factory
- Troy Industries
- SI Defense
- 2 Vets Arms
Interestingly, the Government is looking at two procurement vehicles. After purchasing the initial 30 units for developmental and operational testing, the Army may go one or both of the paths below:
- Within 24 months of contract award, the Army may buy up to a total of 3,643 CSASS weapon systems to be delivered over 5 years at a Firm-Fixed Price.
- Within 36 months of contract award, the Army may purchase the entire Technical Data Package (TDP), which would halt deliveries until the SASS program hits “Milestone C” (which is the Government’s classification for “mature” programs of record).
It is entirely possible they Army may buy all the rifles and then opt to buy the TDP for future procurements. If the Government exercises Option 2, they would own the design to the CSASS. From there, the Army could solicit the design to all manufacturers to get the best price.
This is the current practice with the M4 & M16, but the government does not own the TDP. Instead, they pay a 5% royalty to Colt. See a detailed article at Defense Industry Daily for the history on it. I believe the the Army is keen to avoid another Colt TDP fiasco which has plagued them since the 1990’s.
It will be interesting to see where this will go. My guess is what we will see a few packages submitted for evaluation. Remington, Sig, and other large companies will bid complete in-house solutions and there will be a few loose federations of smaller companies with one serving and the prime bidder. (Possible Example ONLY: Daniel Defense Rifle, Silencer Co Suppressor & Device, MagPul Furniture)
The small companies may stand a good chance. The low production quantity is achievable for small shops and the request to purchase the TDP may give them a pricing advantage when looking at the total package price. However, my experience has shown that it is difficult if you are not a large company or have previous contracts to make a meaningful impact on Program Offices.
My prediction: This will be Remington’s contract to lose for three reasons:
- Remington currently supplies the latest M-2010 sniper rifle and suppressor system. This gives them delivery history and plenty of business development in-roads into the program office.
- The DMPS Gen II .308 platforms were released coincidentally this last year giving Remington plenty of time to iron out the bugs. The new Gen II rifles shed a significant amount of weight that other manufacturers who use the de-facto DPMS Gen I platform will have a hard time achieving.
- Remington has significant production capacity with the new plant in GA coming online. Combined with their purchasing power, they will be hard to beat in materials and labor pricing.
Update: The Army is looking to award this as a “best value” contract. Unlike “Technically Acceptable, Lowest Price”, “Lowest Value” contracts give the Army wide discretion on what they consider valuable. They may prioritize accuracy, weight, or any number of technical qualifications. In short, “best value” is whatever a program office can use to justify its decision in front of a judge during a likely protest (who typically give the program offices significant deference).
Reading between the lines, my analysis is that the Army does not want to upgrade the current M110 systems. Looking at all the upgrades, about the only re-usable items from the existing platform would be the receivers, which are heavy. The trigger, grip, bolt, etc would likely all be replaced.
In my experience, “best value” contracts are used when the Government has specific contractors or ideas in mind but has to go through free and open competition. Or, they have existing stock of an old system that must be disposed of in such a manner that would not bring excess attention to the program office. My guess is the reasons for the “best value” is a combination of both.
Plus, if they opt to upgrade existing weapons, Knight’s will still own a critical part of the TDP. Recently, the Army has been keen to own the core technologies and IP. The recent camouflage effort is a prime example. The Army almost bought the Crye Multicam TDP, but instead adopted their internal “Scorpion” patterns. Since they do not have the capability to design the weapon themselves, they will have to procure it from the outside.
My hope: The MagPul Massoud makes a dark-horse appearance.
After being down yesterday, the Army’s page is up and running: https://acquisition.army.mil/asfi/solicitation_view.cfm?psolicitationnbr=W15QKN14R0065