During a March 16th House Armed Services Committee hearing on the National Defense Authorization Act, Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) stated to the Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that he believed it is “absolutely ridiculous” that Milley did not have the authority to choose a pistol for the Army, instead of the slow and expensive acquisitions process currently in place. All of the service chiefs were present.
“I would bet that the four of you in uniform could probably in 10 minutes come up with an agreement on what that platform should be,” he said. “I would think that with a quick click or two on an iPad that you could figure out what the retail price of the pistol was, what a decent price for that pistol was and what we should be paying for that pistol if we were buying it in the quantities that we were buying it in.” The congressman added, “I want you to know that I do believe that you should have that authority.”
Milley responded to the lawmakers that he and the secretary of the Army do have authority to choose the weapon, but that is only at the end of the process. Scott then asked Milley to offer language that could be included in the National Defense Authorization Act to allow him to move forward on a handgun choice.
At an earlier think tank on March 10th, Milley cited the Modular Handgun System program as an example of the slow acquisitions process. The MHS is the Army and Airforce competition for a new handgun started in 2008, and it is anticipated to be the next military standard side arm replacing the Beretta M9 pistol. Milley wants to scrap the long and expensive process and simply choose a gun:
“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol. Two years to test At $17 million?” Milley said to an audience at a Washington, D.C., think tank on March 10. “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.”
The MHS competition is open caliber, and Milley’s desire to pick a gun could mean the Army remains with a 9mm round instead of going bigger, if that choice follows general trends in special operations and law enforcement. Also, ending the MHS process could, in theory, save the Army a large amount of money in the procurement process, with the maximum contract value of MHS at $580 million. Milley blamed layers of processes, where centralized and bureaucratic lawyer-guided solutions to accountability problems have gummed up the system, and he said the best fix is to “empower and decentralize” while maintaining accountability.
The Army will not publicly say the number of competing companies or proposals. Each can submit two different calibers, but after lab tests and evaluations, three will make it to user trials.