ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – A year after a team of Army Contracting Command-Rock Island (ACC-RI) employees began working a fast-paced, urgent munitions requirement, their efforts are making a big difference in the Army’s munitions readiness.
Jessica Pearson, contracting officer, and Matthew Kopel, contract specialist, were assigned the urgent need requirement for M918 and M385A1 training projectiles for mixed belt cartridges in November 2019. These projectiles have been used in the mixed belt for 16 years, but in October 2016 they were slated to be replaced with the M918E1 High Velocity Day Night Thermal (DNT) cartridge. In September 2018, with the replacement decision in place, no follow-on contract for the M918 and M385A1 projectiles was pursued.
However, the customer, Project Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems (PM-MAS), became aware that the M918E1 High Velocity DNT was not functioning in the MK-19 Grenade Machine Gun (GMG), and a stop work order for the M918E1 was issued in September 2019, necessitating continued use of the M918 and M385A1 projectiles.
The urgency of this requirement stems from the fact that the inventory of M918 and M385A1 projectiles were diminished and deliveries were already being constrained as early as April 2020 and were forecasted to run out in November 2022.
Failure to maintain training round levels could cause major strategic setbacks, improper handling of combat ammunition, and increased downtime associated with weapon malfunctions. Not having sufficient training ammunition inventory would have a direct effect on Army readiness, impacting the training of all Soldiers and their ability to support combat missions.
To address this urgent need, ACC-RI and PM-MAS conducted market research between November 2019 and February 2020 to determine sources for a potential buy of both M918 and M385A1 training projectiles.
When these rounds were procured in the past, it was done so under two separate contracts, and any time you consolidate multiple actions into a single action, you have to get approval to consolidate it. Further, the rounds were produced by two vendors falling under the Office of Small Business Program’s 8(a) Program, which assists small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.
The market research revealed that the vendors that had made them in the past either were out of business or they graduated out of the 8(a) Program, so the team had to then do market research to determine if any other vendors had the capability.
Ultimately, the team decided to make this a sole source award due to the urgency via an Undefinitized Contract Action (UCA), which typically doesn’t happen in ammunition procurements. The UCA was issued in May 2020, at a not-to-exceed price of $92 million, which included the purchase and additional option quantities for M918 and M385A1 projectiles.
Due to the urgency of the requirement, the team had to ensure seamless coordination between the customer, contracting team, policy, competition advocate office, legal, and the Office of Small Business Programs.
“I would say the coordination between everyone was the biggest challenge and success,” said Kopel. “Ensuring we kept making the schedule and trying to coordinate everyone’s time to get everyone on the same page at the same time, which was further pressured when COVID-19 hit and time became even more constrained.”
Another challenging aspect was getting the M385 and the M918 removed from the 8(a) Small Business Program.
“This is something that is not typically done in ammo procurement,” said Jaclyn Senneff, branch chief in the Munitions and Industrial Base (MIB) Directorate. “They had to write up a release and route it all the way up to Small Business headquarters to get it released from 8(a) Program due to the fact that there weren’t any 8(a) contractors who were capable of meeting this requirement.”
Additionally, because these projectiles were previously purchased independently, purchasing them together required the team to develop a consolidation Determination and Findings (D&F).
“This wasn’t just a straightforward UCA and Justification & Approval,” said Pearson. “Due to the nature of the requirement and the direct impact on training for the Soldiers, we had to move really quick. It truly required coordination with policy, competition advocate office, legal, small business and bringing everybody on board to pull together to make it happen.”
Senneff said Pearson and Kopel were very well aware of the impact their efforts would have on the warfighter’s ability to train, which lead to a successful and timely award.
“They definitely showed a lot of dedication and put in a lot of time thinking outside the box to get this done as quickly as possible,” said Senneff. “They ensured the procurement was made in the best interest of the government but also ensured that at the end of the day, these projectiles could be produced and delivered to the Soldiers who need them.”