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By Debbie Gregory.

The Marine Corps has awarded a five-year, firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract with a maximum ceiling of $29.4 million for the procurement of up to 15,000 M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles (IAR) and spare parts. The contract reflects a savings of more than 50 percent compared with what it has paid in the past for the weapon.

The contract was awarded to Heckler & Koch (H&K) in Ashburn, Virginia. For more than 50 years, H&K has been a leading designer and manufacturer of small arms and light weapons for law enforcement and military forces worldwide. In addition to operations in the U.S., H&K has operations in Germany, the United Kingdom and France

The price tag for the first 5,650 units is $7.4 million, which works out to $1,309 each. Given that the service branch previous paid approximately $3,000/unit, these rifles are a substantially better buy.

The additional M27’s will replace the M4 carbine. Unlike the M4, the M27 IAR is fully automatic to provide a higher volume of fire. It also features a free-floating barrel design for better accuracy.

“Since the M27 has been fielded, it has proven to be extremely reliable, durable, and accurate,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joel Schwendinger, Combat Development and Integration Gunner.

The Marine Corps Operating Concept identifies the need for “increased lethality in Marine rifle platoons and squads,” he said.

“The M27 provides the Corps with the necessary increase in lethality,” Schwendinger said. “Unlike other infantry specialties that primarily fight with crew-served weapons, such as mortars and machine guns, rifle platoons primarily fight with rifles, and the M27 has proven to be the best overall fighting rifle.”

Although the infantry is fully enamored with the IAR, Marine special operators don’t want it because it isn’t compatible with SOCOM’s low receivers. Adopting the rifle would mean Marine operators would lose the flexibility of changing out various rifle barrels and configurations for a multitude of diverse mission sets carried out by the elite commando force.

The Marine Corps will field the additional M27 rifles to active and reserve infantry platoons beginning in early 2019.

By Debbie Gregory.

The contract for two refrigerator units that were destined for Air Force One has been canceled.

The $24 million contract would have provided two new “chiller” units that would have been installed in 2020. The current Air Force One planes have been in use since 1990, and are scheduled for replacement in 2024. Boeing reached a deal this year to build replacements for those two presidential airplanes for $3.9 billion.

That would have meant that the $24 million dollar chiller units were only going to be in use for four years.

The Air Force and White House Military Office decided to cancel the purchase until the new Boeing Air Force One planes are delivered, according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. Wilson stressed that if the delivery of those planes is delayed, they will have to reconsider the possibility of replacement.

Technically speaking, any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the president becomes Air Force One, but the moniker usually refers to the two identical planes that have been specifically modified to meet the security and logistical needs of the commander-in-chief and his flying staff.

The refrigerators on Air Force One are required to carry 3,000 meals in order to feed passengers and crew for four weeks in case of an emergency that prevents the plane from landing.

The Air Force has said the refrigerators currently on board Air Force One are based on old technology and were designed for short-term food storage, and are increasingly failing in hot and humid environments.

Rep. Joe Courtney, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power and projection forces, who had inquired about the refrigerator contract, praised the Air Force for terminating it, saying it “didn’t pass the smell test.”

By Debbie Gregory.

Fielding a replacement for the Bradley fighting vehicle is the Army’s top priority for its Next Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCVs) program.

The Army named NGCV as one of its top-six modernization priorities that will be supported under the service’s new Futures Command expected to reach an initial operational capability this summer. The NGCV will replace Cold War era fighting vehicles with a new, modern design meant to kit out tank and mechanized infantry units.

Army Secretary Mark Esper revealed that the service will focus first on the “new infantry fighting vehicle, which is what the first Next Generation Combat Vehicle will be.” It will feature driver-assisted, 360-degree situational awareness assisted by artificial intelligence, as well as computer-assisted targeting and acquisition capabilities allowing quicker decision making in combat.

“We can’t wait 15 years. We’ve got to pull that forward because I’m looking at the National Defense Strategy, I’m looking at those countries and I know I have to get there sooner,” Esper said.

Manned and unmanned NGCVs will work together on the battlefield, with the larger manned vehicles carrying a tank gun or squad of infantry troops. The unmanned vehicle will be considerably smaller, but still carry a considerable punch. The unmanned vehicle could be used as a scouting vehicle, traveling ahead of a mixed armored task force.

The Army has budgeted $38 million for advanced prototyping efforts across the six modernization priorities in FY19.

By late FY19, the Army will introduce one manned and two unmanned combat vehicles for testing by the service’s Test and Evaluation Command. The 2019 deadline for a manned vehicle means the first generation NGCV will likely be something relatively new but already in production.

NGCV is the Army’s third attempt to replace the Abrams tank and the Bradley IFV. During the 2000s, the cancelled Future Combat Systems program spent $18.1 billion without fielding a single vehicle.

Understanding Set-Asides

By Debbie Gregory.

Every year, the federal government spends approximately $500 billion on goods and services. In order to keep a level playing field, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has worked with federal agencies to ensure that at least 23 percent of all prime government contracts are awarded to small businesses. These are called “set-asides.”

In addition to the 23 percent for small businesses, statutory goals established by Congress for federal executive agencies are:

  • 5 percent for women-owned small businesses
  • 5 percent for Small Disadvantaged Businesses
  • 3 percent for HUBZone small businesses
  • 3 percent for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses

There are two kinds of set-aside contracts: competitive set-asides and sole-source set-asides.

According to the SBA, in competitive set-asides, when at least two small businesses could perform the work or provide the products being purchased, the government sets aside the contract exclusively for small businesses. With few exceptions, this happens automatically for all government contracts under $150,000.

Sole-source contracts are a kind of contract that can be issued without a competitive bidding process. This usually happens in situations where only a single business can fulfill the requirements of a contract.

Veterans are uniquely qualified to secure government contracts due to the skills and experience inherit from their career in the military. The federal government tries to award at least three percent of annual federal contracting dollars to service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

Working with veteran owned businesses have additional advantages: many of their owners already have the necessary security clearances often required for government contracts. They also have knowledge of the inner workings of government.

The certification process varies depending on the SBA contracting program. For some, you can self-certify just by updating your business profile in the System for Award Management (SAM) at http:www.sam.gov.

For other programs, you have to apply for certification. As part of the application, you’ll answer questions about your business and its ownership, and upload supporting documents.

By Debbie Gregory.

WWII Army Veteran Bob Evans, whose small truck stop restaurant in Ohio grew into a national chain and a line of pork sausage products that bear his name, created a corporate culture that recognizes and appreciates military service. To that end, one of the largest veteran-only business grants in the country is provided by the Bob Evans Farms “Heroes to CEOs” business grant.

As a way of giving back to the men and women who keep America safe, the grant program was born out of a need to provide funding and assistance to veteran entrepreneurs.

“Our company has a passion for helping those who serve,” said Mike Townsley, CEO and President of Bob Evans Farms. “Serving in the military and beginning a new-business venture can feel worlds apart for many vets.”

Judging criteria for the grant includes categories such as “Success,” “Reason” and “Opportunity.”

Those who have served make excellent entrepreneurs because of the skills and traits garnered through their military service. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration, more than 2.5 million small businesses in the U.S. are veteran owned.

Last year, the grant recipients were:

Army veteran Carson Goodale,  co-founder of Fanfood, an app that gives you the power to order concessions directly to your seat at sporting events.

Air Force veteran Charlynda Scales, who founded Mutt’s Sauce, an all-purpose, tomato-based specialty sauce. The condiment recipe was passed down by and is named for her grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell.

Army veteran Jerry Martin, who founded Vet Veggies, which provides fresh, pesticide and chemical free vegetables grown locally by military veterans in a sustainable environment.

The deadline for the 2018 program is June 27th, and three $25,000 business grants will be awarded to veterans or active-duty members who either have their own business or an entrepreneurial business idea. Last year’s awardees will also serve as judges for this year’s grant competition.

In addition to the grant money, the three recipients will also receive a three-day trip for two to New York City, as well as a half-day mentoring session with Daymond John, Co-Star of ABC’s Shark Tank.

Learn more about this year’s “Heroes to CEOs” contest or submit an application at https://www.ourfarmsalutes.com.

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