Posted 10/04/04 08:47
U.S. Army Looks to Private Sector For Long-Term Supplier of Bullets
By MEGAN SCULLY
With U.S. military ammunition requirements expected to hit 1.7 billion rounds a year next year, the U.S. Army plans to select a prime contractor to manage large-quantity buys of ammo.
The decision marks a major departure for the service, which has traditionally manufactured almost all of its own ammunition. But bullet requirements have increased four-fold since 2000, forcing the Army to shop around for more suppliers in the last several years.
More than a dozen companies responded to a recent draft request for proposals for the prime contractor job. A formal request is expected within the next month, with a contract award planned for early next year, program officials said.
“We are looking at new and innovative ways to do business outside the box,” Brig. Gen. Paul Izzo, the Army’s ammunition program executive officer, said during a recent Association of the United States Army conference in Arlington, Va. “If the government comes in [and says we] need this much capability, [we] have to guarantee it’s going to be there.”
Army officials declined to comment on the potential value of the contract, but a Sept. 15 pre-solicitation notice states that the winning contractor will be required to deliver up to 500 million rounds annually of small-caliber ammunition — namely, 5.56mm rifle rounds and 7.62mm and .50-caliber machine-gun rounds. The contract will include one base year with an option for four more, program officials said.
Buying bullets from companies isn’t new; the U.S. military has occasionally purchased small quantities of small-caliber ammo during and since the Vietnam War. In the past year alone, the military relied on short-term contracts with companies such as Olin Winchester, East Alton, Ill., and Israel Military Industries, Ramat Hasharon, Israel.
“What this represents is our commitment to industry over the long period,” said Lt. Col. Matt Butler, the service’s product manager for small- and medium-caliber ammunition. “This allows them to come up with a proper business plan.”
Army officials say the multiyear contract will keep prices low.
“That’s true of any commodity. Stable funding, sustained funding is always critical, especially in the ammo market,” said Col. Mark Rider, the Army’s project manager for maneuver ammunition systems. “We are trying to say to industry, ‘We’re serious about funding.’”
The Army, which supplies small-caliber bullets to the entire U.S. military, will churn out a record 1.2 billion rounds at its sole remaining ammo plant, the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, Independence, Mo. But that won’t be enough.
The military’s annual ammunition requirement will soon hit 1.7 billion rounds, thanks to the war in Iraq, an effort to replenish dwindling stockpiles and a new training doctrine that more than doubles the amount of live shooting.
Though it is drafting the final request for proposals, the Army is still uncertain about the prime contractor’s exact role and how it will operate.
“We’ve seen a couple of different alternatives evolve,” Butler said.
The prime might serve as a lead system integrator, handling Army requests by handing out subcontracts. Or the prime could produce most of the ammunition and accompanying supplies by itself, including bullet cases, only turning to other companies to fill whatever orders it cannot meet on its own.
In any event, the Army expects the prime contractor to streamline ammunition buying.
“When you go out to buy a new car, you don’t have to buy the tires from one place, the engine another place and the chassis another place,” Rider said. “We are doing the same thing. We are turning to potential primes, ‘How do you propose to do this, using your knowledge of the market?’ “
The Lake City plant will remain open, and could produce more than 1.2 billion rounds annually in the next few years by adding more equipment and relying on its experienced staff, said Bryce Hallowell, a spokesman at Alliant Techsystems (ATK), the Minnesota-based defense company that took over the plant in 1999.
Meanwhile, ATK also plans to compete for the prime contractor slot. Officials say its production plant in Anoka, Minn., could be re-equipped to produce military-grade ammunition. Typically, military ammunition must be more reliable, durable and provide better performance than commercial products. It also must be able to operate in extreme temperatures.
“We definitely plan on participating,” Hallowell said. “We have assembled a really strong team with domestic and international support.” •
If this did go through it *could* mean another outlet for 55 and 62 grain "mil-spec" ammo for us, yes? With the Lake City plant doing all it can to put every bullet into the military's hands at present, another manufacturer should be good news.
Or do I have my rose-colored glasses on?
Whoever scrounges that 1.2 billion brass cases better already have a Dillon swager and a Giraud case trimmer or they'll be sorry.
Another shortage due to Klinton
If they are allowed to sell of mil-spec ammo that they make, should they fill the service's order, this could be VERY good for civilians.
Sierra is already making milspec ammo for the Israelis, has been for years.
Brass.... OK (Starline)
There won't be any overruns anytime soon, and they won't make 55gr.