December 3, 2021

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Warfighter Support: Army’s and Defense Logistics Agency’s Approach for Awarding Contracts for the Army Combat Shirt

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<div>What GAO FoundDuring the fiscal year 2007-12 timeframe, the Army applied statutory and regulatory requirements related to procurement for supplies to award contracts for the Army Combat Shirt. The Army applied these requirements, including those in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Small Business Regulations, to award the following groups of contracts and to respond to demand for the combat shirt and the supply of manufacturers that could produce it:contracts awarded on a sole-source basis to 8(a) firms owned by an ANC or anIndian tribe in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 to respond to the urgent need for combat shirts because of an increase in warfighters being burned by improvised explosive devices in theater.contracts awarded to NIB and NISH nonprofit agencies representing industries for the blind and severely disabled, respectively, in fiscal years 2009 through 2012 to respond to the increasing demand for the combat shirts and the limited capacity of the 8(a) firms that were manufacturing the combat shirts under the existing sole-source contracts.a contract awarded on a competitive basis to an 8(a), ANC-owned firm in fiscal year 2011 to respond to the need for an additional source of supply to manufacture the combat shirts and to introduce competition as a means of reducing cost of the combat shirt.Since fiscal year 2011, DLA has been responsible for sustainment contracts for the Army Combat Shirt. According to DLA contracting officials, DLA plans to award contracts by March 2013 by applying statutory and regulatory procurement requirements, including the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Small Business Regulations.Why GAO Did This StudyFlame-resistant clothing has been typically used by warfighters to protect them in situations where they face serious exposure to fire or incendiary devices. Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Department of Defense (DOD) personnel wearing flame-resistant clothing were mainly aviators, fuel handlers, and combat-vehicle crewmembers. However, with the growing prevalence of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, warfighters serving there have been exposed more frequently to the risk of fire-related injuries. To provide warfighters deploying into combat areas (including Iraq and Afghanistan) with a garment that can mitigate the risk of sustaining fire-related injuries, the Army procured the Army Combat Shirt, which is a flame-resistant, moisture-wicking shirt designed specifically to protect warfighters against burns and provide maximum comfort as well. Through the Army Program Executive Office Soldier-- the program manager responsible for the initial procurement of the Army Combat Shirt--the Army began procuring this shirt in fiscal year 2007 and through fiscal year 2012 has awarded over $310 million in contracts for the combat shirt. These contracts have been awarded to 8(a) firms and to the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH nonprofit agencies. Beginning in fiscal year 2011, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) assumed responsibility for sustainment contracting of the Army Combat Shirt and began the process of soliciting proposals and awarding contracts for the combat shirts. Transferring clothing and textile program functions from a military service to DLA is part of DOD's process for managing the life cycle of the procurement of supplies. This report addresses a Congressional request that GAO examine the approach that the Army used to award contracts for the Army Combat Shirt and that DLA is using to prepare to award future ones.For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202)512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.</div>

What GAO Found

During the fiscal year 2007-12 timeframe, the Army applied statutory and regulatory requirements related to procurement for supplies to award contracts for the Army Combat Shirt. The Army applied these requirements, including those in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Small Business Regulations, to award the following groups of contracts and to respond to demand for the combat shirt and the supply of manufacturers that could produce it:

  • contracts awarded on a sole-source basis to 8(a) firms owned by an ANC or anIndian tribe in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 to respond to the urgent need for combat shirts because of an increase in warfighters being burned by improvised explosive devices in theater.
  • contracts awarded to NIB and NISH nonprofit agencies representing industries for the blind and severely disabled, respectively, in fiscal years 2009 through 2012 to respond to the increasing demand for the combat shirts and the limited capacity of the 8(a) firms that were manufacturing the combat shirts under the existing sole-source contracts.
  • a contract awarded on a competitive basis to an 8(a), ANC-owned firm in fiscal year 2011 to respond to the need for an additional source of supply to manufacture the combat shirts and to introduce competition as a means of reducing cost of the combat shirt.

Since fiscal year 2011, DLA has been responsible for sustainment contracts for the Army Combat Shirt. According to DLA contracting officials, DLA plans to award contracts by March 2013 by applying statutory and regulatory procurement requirements, including the Federal Acquisition Regulation and Small Business Regulations.

Why GAO Did This Study

Flame-resistant clothing has been typically used by warfighters to protect them in situations where they face serious exposure to fire or incendiary devices. Prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Department of Defense (DOD) personnel wearing flame-resistant clothing were mainly aviators, fuel handlers, and combat-vehicle crewmembers. However, with the growing prevalence of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, warfighters serving there have been exposed more frequently to the risk of fire-related injuries. To provide warfighters deploying into combat areas (including Iraq and Afghanistan) with a garment that can mitigate the risk of sustaining fire-related injuries, the Army procured the Army Combat Shirt, which is a flame-resistant, moisture-wicking shirt designed specifically to protect warfighters against burns and provide maximum comfort as well. Through the Army Program Executive Office Soldier– the program manager responsible for the initial procurement of the Army Combat Shirt–the Army began procuring this shirt in fiscal year 2007 and through fiscal year 2012 has awarded over $310 million in contracts for the combat shirt. These contracts have been awarded to 8(a) firms and to the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH nonprofit agencies. Beginning in fiscal year 2011, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) assumed responsibility for sustainment contracting of the Army Combat Shirt and began the process of soliciting proposals and awarding contracts for the combat shirts. Transferring clothing and textile program functions from a military service to DLA is part of DOD’s process for managing the life cycle of the procurement of supplies. This report addresses a Congressional request that GAO examine the approach that the Army used to award contracts for the Army Combat Shirt and that DLA is using to prepare to award future ones.

For more information, contact Cary B. Russell at (202)512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.

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