BREAKING: Inspector General Report DAMNS XM25 “Punisher” CDTE Program – Is the Army’s New Airburst Weapon on the Chopping Block?

    The US Army’s “Punisher” XM25 Counter-Defilade Target Engagement (CTDE) weapon program is in danger, says a report released earlier this week by the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office. The program has been riddled with delays and cost spirals, as well as three accidents in 2013, but beyond that the Army has failed to outline a plan for procurement and basic issuance of the weapon, putting the program in jeopardy. From the (heavily redacted) report:

    Army officials could have managed the schedule, affordability, and quantity requirements of the XM25 program more effectively. The initial production decision for the XM25 has continued to be delayed since we issued our last report on the XM25 in March 2014. Specifically, Army officials removed procurement funding from the XM25 budget, which extended the engineering and manufacturing development phase by 2 years. Additionally, Army officials contributed to the initial production decision delay by placing a hold on the XM25 capability production document

    Later on page 11 the report states:

    We recommend that the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, determine whether to proceed with or cancel the XM25 program after reviewing the results of the 2016 Governmental testing, and review and approve the binding affordability constraints developed by Army G-8 officials for the XM25 program within 30 days of the issuance of this report.

    Regarding the 2013 accidents, the report concludes that the program did not adequately train the operational units to which the XM25 was issued, resulting in the accidents and in injury to the soldiers:

    Furthermore, PM IW [author’s note: “Project Manager: Individual Weapons”, a metonym for the office of the Project Manager] officials conducted forward operational assessments on the XM25 in Afghanistan in 2011, 2012, and 2013, during which the system suffered three malfunctions, resulting in minor operator injuries. A forward operational assessment is conducted in an operational environment to determine the effectiveness and suitability of prototypes. The weapon malfunctions occurred because PM IW officials did not provide adequate training to soldiers prior to releasing the XM25 for use during the three forward operational assessments.

    The report explains under exactly what circumstances the XM25 could get cancelled:

    The Army Acquisition Executive issued interim acquisition guidance on establishing affordability constraints for ACAT II and III programs in June 2015. The interim policy required Army G-8 officials to perform an affordability analysis and develop binding affordability constraints for MDA approval as a program enters a new phase in the acquisition process. Once the Army establishes affordability constraints for an acquisition program, the program manager must manage the program within the approved constraints. The MDA will enforce affordability constraints throughout the life of the program. If a program manager concludes that a program will exceed an affordability constraint, despite efforts to control costs and reduce requirements, the program manager will notify the MDA to request assistance and resolution. If the program manger determines that a program cannot meet approved affordability constraints, even with aggressive cost control, the program manager must revise technical requirements, schedule, and required quantities. When a program still cannot meet constraints after undergoing revisions, and the Army cannot afford to raise the program’s affordability constraints and obtain MDA approval, the program will be canceled.

    This thorough overview of the process for ensuring a program meets affordability constraints may make it sound as though the XM25 isn’t in much danger right now, but eslewhere the report is very explicit about the program’s status:

    As a result of continued schedule delays, cost increases, and performance problems, the XM25 MDA should determine whether to cancel the program or immediately schedule an initial production decision if the FY 2016 Government test results demonstrate that the XM25 can meet its primary and secondary performance requirements.

    One of the problems with the XM25 program is that the cost of the XM25 and its slated procurement quantity haven’t been adequately validated; in other words, the Army has not successfully verified its estimates for how many XM25s are really needed, and what each unit will cost:

    (FOUO) U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCOE) officials did not justify the XM25 basis of issue plan and corresponding XM25 procurement quantity. This occurred because MCOE officials did not conduct and maintain complete and verifiable analyses for determining the necessary XM25 procurement quantity. As a result, the Army has no assurance that the estimated procurement quantity of [REDACTED], at an estimated average unit cost of [REDACTED] per weapon, and an estimated total cost of [REDACTED], is valid.

    Worse, apparently the Army has not fully mapped out exactly how the XM25 is going to be issued, in what quantity, and to what units:

    MCOE officials did not conduct and maintain complete and verifiable analyses for determining the necessary XM25 procurement quantity. Specifically, MCOE officials could not provide the underlying support for their XM25 basis of issue plan recommendations. Army guidance requires that Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ASA[ALT]) officials establish policies for the retention of supporting documentation for a basis of issue plan developed during the acquisition process, including the identification of the data source and the rationale for selection.

    ASA(ALT) officials stated Army G-3/5/7 officials are revising the Army guidance, which requires retention of basis of issue plan supporting documentation. ASA(ALT) officials explained they requested Army G‑3/5/7 officials remove that section of the guidance because ASA(ALT) officials believed that supporting documentation used to generate the basis of issue plan comes from previously approved acquisition documentation. Specifically, ASA(ALT) officials stated that they believed the basis of issue plan supporting documentation is already included in the approved capability development document, the approved capability production document and cost-benefit analysis, the system training plan, the basis of issue guidance, and the operation mode summary and mission profile.

    The approved capability development document, the system training plan, basis of issue guidance, and the operation mode summary and mission profile discuss different operational scenarios and uses of the XM25. These documents do not contain the underlying support for MCOE officials’ XM25 basis of issue plan recommendations for the different Army squads, platoons, and companies, contrary to what ASA(ALT) officials believed.


    Thanks to Daniel for the tip!

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]