Procurement: Protesting Better and Cheaper


January 9, 2006: The U.S. Department of Defense has gotten a lot of complaints from troops in Iraq about the M9 9mm pistol. Seems the dust and sand so common to those areas were causing magazine jams. So a new vendor was sought for the troublesome magazines. One was found, who not only had a new design that would solve the jamming problem, but would supply the magazines for $4.50 each (47 percent less than the previous supplier.) The supplier losing the contract complained that the new outfit was offering an unreasonably low price. Civilians can buy magazines, for a similar pistol, for about $20 each. But the new supplier, Airtronic, is delivering 900,000 magazines initially, and up to 14 million eventually, so some economies of scale can be expected. The government reviewed the complaint and rejected it. But the effectiveness of the new magazine won’t be known until the troops get to actually use it. Apparently, the new design is based on older ones that have shown better performance in dusty conditions.


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