Carbine Competition Canceled by Army as Soldiers Keep M4s

The U.S. Army canceled a competition to develop a rifle that the Pentagon’s inspector general said risked wasting $1.8 billion.

None of the carbines tested by the military met the minimum requirements needed to move to the next phase of its evaluation, the Army said today in an e-mailed statement.

The service also cited “limited fiscal resources” and said it will continue to use its current rifle, the M4A1 carbine, which “consistently performs well and has received high marks from soldiers.”

Colt Defense LLC, based in West Hartford, Connecticut, is the primary supplier of the Army’s M4 rifle and would have faced competition under the replacement program.

The Army and Defense Department may want to re-evaluate the rifle replacement program because the service is “seeking to acquire more rifles during a time when” its total force structure will be reduced, Lynne Halbrooks, principal deputy inspector general, said in a statement to a congressional committee in March.

The Pentagon plans to reduce Army ground forces to 490,000 by 2017 from about 560,000 in 2011.

The Army “may not have an established need for this weapon nor developed performance requirements for the $1.8 billion acquisition,” Halbrooks said.

Defense Cuts

The cancellation comes as the Defense Department is absorbing cuts under a process known as sequestration. The reductions are triggering furloughs for as many as 680,000 of the Pentagon’s civilian workers. The across-the-board spending cuts are set to reduce defense programs by $37 billion by Sept. 30.

Colt Defense officials weren’t immediately available for comment by phone.

The M4 carbine is a lighter, more compact version of the Vietnam-era M16 rifle. Like its predecessor, the weapon employs a gas operating system, which produces carbon residue that, if not properly cleaned, may result in malfunctions.

Questions over the reliability of the M4 surfaced after soldiers reported their weapons jamming during a 2008 firefight with insurgents near Wanat, Afghanistan. The battle was one of the deadliest of the war for the U.S. -- nine soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded.

Army and Colt officials have said the Army’s final report on the battle of Wanat attributes the M4 stoppages to the way the guns were used, not design flaws. The weapon, which fires 5.56mm rounds in single shots and three-round bursts, was not developed to produce sustained automatic fire like a machine gun, they said.

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