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By Debbie Gregory.

In an effort to make sure the Veterans Administration transition to electronic health records (EHR) stays on track, Congress has tasked a new subcommittee to oversee the 10 year, $10 billion-plus project awarded to Missouri-based Cerner.

The Subcommittee on Technology Modernization will be headed up by Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a former Navy Reserve supply officer and Afghanistan veteran.

“Service members and veterans deserve a seamless, lifetime medical record and an electronic health record system that supports the highest quality care,” Banks said. “However, I have no illusions about the challenge confronting VA in this monumental undertaking.”

Back in June, House Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) and ranking member Tim Walz (D-MN) had announced that the new subcommittee would supervise the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ tech projects such as the Electronic Health Record Modernization program.

Cerner CEO Zane Burke told lawmakers that the annual maintenance and operating cost of the electronic health record system his company would provide would be lower than that of the existing system, which is about $1 billion.

In addition to Roe and Walz, Reps. Conor Lamb (D-PA), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Mike Coffman (R-CO) and Scott Peters D-CA) round out  the subcommittee.

Committee members noted that the electronic interchange of health records between VA and the Defense Department is needed to provide quality and timely healthcare for service members and veterans.

“For millions of veterans across the country, their first interaction with VA will be the simple act of booking an appointment,” Walz said. “Unfortunately, even something as straightforward as that can be a struggle due to VA’s antiquated information technology systems.”

The VA said the newly formed Office of Electronic Health Record Modernization, which will be led by Genevieve Morris, deputy national coordinator for the Department of Health and Human Services, “will manage the preparation, deployment and maintenance of VA’s new electronic health care record system and the health information technology (IT) tools dependent upon it.”

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army will be spending $451 million to upgrade M1 Abrams tanks and Stryker combat vehicles.

The tanks will be equipped with the Trophy Active Protection System. The system, made by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., proactively detects, locates, and if necessary, neutralizes anti-armor threats, increasing platform survivability.

Rafael, an Israeli company has partnered with Leonardo DRS, a U.S. firm headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Under the terms of the $193 million contract, Leonardo DRS will provide the Army with TROPHY systems, countermeasures, and maintenance kits.

“This award is the culmination of several years of hard work by a strong, bi-national government/industry team to protect our warfighters and address a critical capability gap in our armored formations,” said Aaron Hankins, vice president and general manager of the Leonardo DRS Land Systems Division.

Rafael has provided protection solutions to U.S. service members for over two decades via lifesaving passive and reactive armor on vehicles such as Bradley, Stryker and AAV7.

“The majority of Trophy components are manufactured by the American defense industry, and we are excited by the opportunity to increase manufacturing in the U.S., including for Israeli systems, as the U.S. acquires additional systems,” said Moshe Elazar, executive vice president and head of Rafael’s Land and Naval Division.

General Dynamics Land Systems was awarded a contract worth up to $258 million to upgrade 116 Stryker vehicles to the A1 variant.

The Stryker A1 builds upon the combat-proven Double-V Hull (DVH) configuration, providing unprecedented survivability against mines and improvised explosive devices. In addition to the DVH survivability, the Stryker A1 provides a 450-horsepower engine, 60,000-pound suspension, 910-amp alternator and in-vehicle network. The Stryker A1 Infantry Carrier Vehicle is one of the most versatile, most mobile and safest personnel carriers in the entire Army inventory.

The Stryker A1 work will be performed in Lima, Ohio; Anniston, Ala.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Sterling Heights, with an estimated completion date of March 2020.

How Much Did the Army Pay for New Service Pistols?

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By Debbie Gregory.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded that the U.S. Army got a good deal on its new Modular Handgun System (MHS), but the actual cost is not really known.

CRS, the public policy research arm of Congress,  provides vital analytical support to address the most complex public policy issues facing the nation.

The Army MHS is a weapon system produced by Sig Sauer that is set to replace the Beretta M9/11 pistol, used by the Army since 1986.

The 10-year, firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract has a cap of $580 million. A firm-fixed-price contract provides a unit price that is not subject to any adjustments based on the contractor’s costs in meeting the contract requirements. Indefinite quantity means the Army can order as many or as few units as it requires, up to the $580 million contract cap. To date, the Army has obligated approximately $8 million.

While cost data for the Army contract is not publicly available, the cost of similar weapons, accessories, and ammunition can be found at major firearm sellers. For example, CRS compared the MHS contract to a similar purchase at Cabela’s, a gun retailer mentioned by Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley in a March 10, 2015, address. The comment was in regards to Milley’s frustration with the extended length of time the procurement of the handgun had required.

With that said, based on the final cost of the weapon program, the CRS report concluded that the Army appears to be procuring the weapon at a competitive cost, particularly if the value of the intellectual property is included.

CRS did not examine the capability of the weapon system or whether it fulfilled Army requirements.

By Debbie Gregory.

British defense contractor BAE Systems has been awarded a $198 million contract to deliver an initial 30 Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACV), with options for a total of 204 vehicles. The total contract could be worth up to $1.2 billion.

The vehicles will replace the current fleet, which has been in service since the 1970s.

BAE was chosen over Virginia-based SAIC, which had teamed up with Singapore Technologies Kinetics.

“We are well positioned and ready to build the future of amphibious fighting vehicles for the Marine Corps, having already produced 16 prototypes,” said Dean Medland, vice president and general manager of Combat Vehicles Amphibious and International at BAE Systems. “Through this award, we are proud to continue our partnership with the Marine Corps by providing a best-in-class vehicle to support its mission through mobility, survivability and lethality.”

ACV1.1 provides exceptional mobility in all terrains, and blast mitigation protection for all three crew and 13 embarked Marines, along with other improvements over currently fielded systems.

BAE conducted its own extensive risk mitigation testing and evaluation for land mobility, survivability, and swim capabilities that proved its vehicle’s performance prior to delivering the first 16 prototypes to the Marine Corps in 2017.

The initial production vehicles will be delivered to the Marine Corps by the fall of 2019, with the Marines conducting initial operational test and evaluation in late 2020.

The 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion on the West Coast will be the first unit equipped with the ACV 1.1, Marine Corps officials said.

After purchasing the 204 vehicles in the initial phase, the next phase will see BAE’s development of the ACV 1.2, an upgraded platform that will hopefully be a replacement for the fleet of 870 amphibious assault vehicles.

Work on the program will be performed at the company’s facilities in Aiken, South Carolina; Sterling Heights, Michigan; Minneapolis; Stafford; San Jose, California; and York, Pennsylvania.

Top 13 Army Picks for Subcompact Weapons Testing

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The U.S. Army had awarded contracts under the Sub Compact Weapon (SCW) program, worth approximately $200,000, to ten companies to submit submachine guns for the service branch to evaluate.

Then a few weeks later, the service branch expanded the scope of the test and  added three more submachine guns to the mix: the Angstadt Arms’ UDP-9, the Heckler & Koch UMP9, and the Noveske Sub Compact Weapon.

The Army is reportedly considering them for units tasked with protecting senior Army leaders.

The list of sole-source contracts for the subcompact weapons, in alphabetical order, are:

Angstadt Arms for UDP-9

Beretta USA Corporation for PMX subcompact weapon

Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC for CM9MM-9H-M5A, Colt Modular 9mm subcompact weapon

CMMG Inc. for Ultra PDW subcompact weapon

CZ-USA for Scorpion EVO 3 A1 submachine gun

Heckler & Koch for UMP9

Lewis Machine & Tool Company for MARS-L9 compact suppressed weapon

Noveske for Sub Compact Weapon

PTR Industries Inc. for PTR 9CS subcompact weapon

Quarter Circle 10 LLC 5.5 CLT and 5.5 QV5 subcompact weapons

Sig Sauer Inc. for MPX subcompact weapon

Trident Rifles LLC for B&T MP9 machine gun

Zenith Firearms for Z-5RS, Z-5P and Z-5K subcompact weapons

The contracts come on the heels of a Request for Information issued last May for a SCW that will fire 9×19-millimeter (9mm Luger) ammunition, fire full automatic, and have a Picatinny rail for attaching lights and optics.

The ten companies awarded contracts are from the U.S. and Europe. Gunmaker Colt is the first on the list, with what is described as the Colt Modular 9mm Sub Compact Weapon.

Some of the weapons, such as the Colt, CMMG, LMT, and Quarter Circle offerings are likely based on so-called short barrel AR15 “pistols” using the AR15/M16/M4 operating system.

Other guns are based on the famous Heckler and Koch MP-5 submachine gun.

The U.S. Army has not fielded a new submachine gun since World War II.

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