It came right down to the wire, but as expected, one of the competitors for the Army's $580 million program to replace the 1980s-era Beretta M9 handgun has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office.
Austrian handgun maker Glock — one of the finalists in the XM17 Modular Handgun System program — filed its protest over the selection of Sig Sauer Feb. 24, according to the GAO. No details were released with the protest filing.
The protest was first reported by the Army Times.
It is not uncommon for finalists in a program of this scale to file a protest, experts say. And with the Army forecasted to purchase up to 290,000 handguns — not to mention buys from other services following on the Army's heels — the XM17 program is one of the most high-profile weapons buys in the past decade.
But it's surely a disappointing blow to New Hampshire-based Sig Sauer, who submitted a version of its P320 modular handgun and was tapped as the winner in mid-January. As is typical in these types of high-stakes contracts, Sig was tight lipped when asked for comment on the protest.
"Sig Sauer looks forward to providing our U.S. service members the very best tools to ensure mission accomplishment, but we have no comment related to the MHS contract at this time," said Sig Sauer marketing director Jordan Hunter in an email statement to We Are The Mighty.
According to the GAO, government auditors have until June 5 to issue a ruling on whether the award complied with government contract law. The program is suspended until the GAO makes its ruling, officials say.
While Sig Sauer has offered the commercially-available P320 modular handgun since 2014, few have seen Glock's submission. Glock has no commercially-available modular handgun that can change caliber and frame size using different parts.
But Glock handguns are increasingly popular among U.S. service members, with most special operations troops being issued Glock 19s and the Marine Corps phasing out its MARSOC 1911 pistols in favor of Glocks.
For years, SEALs carried Sig Sauer P226 handguns, but even that community is moving toward issuing Glocks.
In March 2016, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned against the service executing a costly, time-consuming program like the XM17 for something as simple as a new handgun.
"We're not exactly redesigning how to go to the moon. This is a pistol," Milley said. "You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I'll call Cabela's tonight, and I'll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I'll get a discount on a bulk buy."