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U.S. lawmakers urge revamp of Army vehicle competition

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of 10 U.S. lawmakers on Thursday urged Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall to revamp the U.S. Army's $5 billion competition for a new armored vehicle to allow both tracked and wheeled vehicles to compete.

The letter came a day before the U.S. Army is due to rule on a protest by General Dynamics Corp, which argues that the Army's rules for the competition are skewed to favor BAE Systems Plc's Bradley Fighting Vehicle, while putting General Dynamics' wheeled Stryker vehicles at a disadvantage.

"A mixed fleet is not about choosing between companies; it is about getting the best value," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Kendall. "A mixed fleet is not about picking Bradley or Stryker; it is about fielding the correct vehicle type depending on the mission."

The letter was signed by Republican Representatives Mike Rogers of Alabama, Jim Jordan of Ohio Republican, and Candice Miller of Michigan, as well as other Republicans and Democrats from those states, where General Dynamics has large facilities.

The Army's competition for a new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) to replace nearly 2,900 Vietnam-era M113 infantry carriers is one of few new weapons development programs available for U.S. ground vehicle makers. The congressional Government Accountability Office estimates the value of the competition at around $5 billion.

The stakes were raised after the Army canceled plans for a separate ground combat vehicle competition which was estimated by the GAO to cost around $37 billion.

"The Army must get this procurement right ... Given the intensely restrictive budget environment the Army faces, the AMPV might be the only new vehicle entering the fleet for decades," the lawmakers said in the letter.

BAE said the Army had studied the issue for two years before deciding on its requirements.

"Our troops will be the biggest loser if there are further delays as they need the protected vehicle described in the Army's AMPV requirements," BAE spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said in a statement.

If the Army rejects General Dynamics' protest, the company would have 10 days to lodge a protest with the GAO, which rules on contract disputes. The company could also take its case to federal court, although that is seen as unlikely.

General Dynamics could also opt not to participate in the competition, which requires bids to be submitted by May 28.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh)

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