The Government Accountability Office recently denied Colt’s second protest of the Army’s M4 Product Improvement Plan, hopefully ending what seems to be a money-driven, seven-month delay over who gets to make M4A1 carbines for soldiers in Afghanistan.

This all began when the Army chose Remington Arms Company over Colt in April to make tens of thousands of M4A1 carbines. That award meant that more soldiers would go into combat with the M4A1, a SOF version of the carbine that features a more durable barrel and a full-auto capability. The Army’s decision to dump the  three-round burst setting will give soldiers a more consistent trigger and better accuracy.

Now, the GAO did rule that Colt’s first protest over the Army’s miscalculation of royalties it would receive for contract awards on its M4 design. The July 24 ruling forced the Army to rework the original solicitation so the vendors that fell into the competitive range could submit new price bids. All gun makers involved were forced to reveal their previous price bids for the $84 million contract to keep things fair.

Colt officials then filed an Oct. 9 protest with the GAO three weeks after the Connecticut-based gun maker received the Army’s amended Sept. 21 solicitation. Colt officials wouldn’t talk about the reason for the second protest then and have not returned my Nov. 29 phone call to discuss the issue.

The Army is now moving forward with its revised attempt to resolve the issue, said Don Jarosz, a spokesman for Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command.

“The Army intends to complete the source selection process and promptly issue a contract award in accordance with the amended solicitation.  No contract award has been made yet, and we are not aware of any appeals made by Colt,” he said.

With luck, the Army will soon be able to complete the M4 Product Improvement portion of service’s dual-path strategy to improve the individual carbine. Army weapons officials launched its plan to radically improve the M4 carbine about a year after senior leaders announced a plan in November 2008 to search for a possible replacement for the M4. Roughly three years later, the improved carbine that has emerged from the effort is the M4A1, a weapon that has been in the special operations inventory since the mid 1990s.

 The Army has fielded more than 6,000 M4A1s to soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., this summer. The service plans to begin upgrading existing M4s to M4A1s with special conversion kits next summer.

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