PARIS — Heidi Shyu, the Army’s acting chief acquisitions official, said today that she met with Sen. Tom Coburn last week to discuss the hold he recently placed on her nomination to become the assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology.

Shyu acknowledged at Eurosatory 12 that the service needs to be clearer on its plans for improving the carbine soldiers take into battle.  

“I’d say we haven’t been doing a very good job explaining what we are doing, and it was a great opportunity for me to say this is what we do. … It was a very good dialogue last week. I sort of explained to him what we’re doing.”

Coburn continues to be the lone voice in Congress that questions the Army’s sluggish pace at deciding whether to replace the M4 carbine or update its design. In a May 29 letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell, Coburn said:

“I remain concerned with the Army’s plans for the improvement of its small arms weapons while our soldiers are at war. For example, I have not seen the Army make sufficient progress on the directive by then Secretary of the Army Pete Geren to conduct a competition to replace its individual carbine rifle no later than the end of FY2009.”

Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican who is known for fighting wasteful Washington spending, has been a critic of the Army’s M4 carbine since 2007. He placed a hold on Geren’s nomination to Secretary of the Army until the service took steps to consider the possibility of replacing the M4.

Geren directed the Army to hold an improved carbine competition in 2008 after the M4 finished last in an Army reliability test against three carbines made by Heckler & Koch and FNH USA. Geren has said in the past that his direction on the carbine competition was the right thing to do.

I am currently working with Coburn’s office to schedule an interview with the senator about this issue.

Coburn’s office told me that he wants the Army to lay out a more precise timeline explaining when soldiers will see a new carbine or an improved version of the M4.

The Army launched the Improved Carbine competition last summer and recently completed the first of effort’s three phases. Weapons officials will soon start shooting hundreds of thousands of rounds through prototypes made by Adcor Defense Inc., Colt Defense LLC, FNH USA, Heckler & Koch and Reminton Arms Company.

Shyu said she is planning to meet with Coburn again soon to discuss the issue further.

“This week we’ll probably give him the small arms modernization strategy; lay it out for him,” she said. “We have to do a better job articulating our message.”

— Military.com Associate Editor Michael Hoffman contributed to this post.

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