Army Has Another Go at Robotic Mule Program.

AuthorTadjdeh, Yasmin

Following a high-profile cancellation, the Army is working on getting its long-in-the-works robotic mule program back on track.

The small multipurpose equipment transport program is envisioned as a way to take weight off soldiers by using unmanned ground vehicles to carry equipment. The service went as far as to award General Dynamics Land Systems a $162 million contract last year out of a pool of four competitors who had made it into the second phase of the program. The Army used an other transaction authority agreement to fund the prototypes that took part in the competition.

However, the award was swiftly protested to the Government Accountability Office by Textron, which had submitted a vehicle developed by its subsidiary Howe & Howe. Textron's protest argued that General Dynamics had significantly altered its vehicle in the follow-on contract after the OTA evaluation phase. That rendered the tests and users' evaluations invalid, a source alleged.

However, before the GAO could make a ruling, the Army canceled the effort and subsequently launched a new competition with revised evaluation criteria.

All four phase two competitors--General Dynamics Land Systems; Textron; an Applied Research Associates/Polaris Defense team; and HDT Global--are recompeting in the new effort, said Timothy Goddette, the head of program executive office for combat support and combat service support, the PEO in charge of SMET.

The new request for proposal--which was sent to industry in February--includes revised evaluation criteria, according to the document, which was not released publicly and was obtained by National Defense. Originally, there were four evaluation factors including soldier feedback, system reliability, system delivery and cost/price. However, with the new competition, the Army is now looking at only two: phase three system design and cost/price.

"The driving rationale for the change in criteria was based on consistent feedback from soldiers during mission exercises regarding the noise signature of the systems, specifically the generators and powertrain," the RFP said. "Furthermore, payload and operation range in silent mode are essential characteristics of the system based on the intended use of the SMET amongst light infantry and were determined to be of great criticality."

The system reliability factor was removed due to a lack of recorded hours, the document said. Additionally, although the government released a draft RFP that contained a...

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