After Failed Search for Jammer Drones, US Army Takes Unusual Step

An MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system flies over Division Artillery as they fire during the Mass Fire Mission on Fort Stewart March 1, 2016.

Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. William Begley

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An MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system flies over Division Artillery as they fire during the Mass Fire Mission on Fort Stewart March 1, 2016.

The service is switching to a little-understood and lightly regulated contracting method to get them.

The U.S. Army wants drone-mounted signal jammers now to dominate future electronic warfare and is switching to a little-understood and lightly regulated contracting method to get them.

After more than a year trying to fill a standard contract for a drone-mounted system to jam enemy communications, the Army’s electronic warfare division is switching course and will use a fast-track system that isn’t bound by traditional contracting rules.

Rather than continue its year-long, Federal Acquisition Regulation-based solicitation, the Army Electronic Warfare and Cyber division is handing its multi-function electronic warfare Air Large program over to the Consortium for Command, Control and Communications in Cyberspace, or C5. While the Army will still pick the winner of the Air Large contract, that company will be a member of the C5 consortium.

The Army began a traditional FAR-based solicitation in February 2017 for an electronic warfare system that would jam enemy communications and establish signal superiority for U.S. troops. Under the original proposal, that system would be mounted on a Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system.

After more than a year working through the contracting process, the EW division decided to shift to using the Defense Department’s other transaction authority, an increasingly popular solicitation process that doesn’t have to abide by acquisition regulations.

Having moved beyond the restrictions of the FAR, Army EW was able to tap one of the main OT contracting methods: the consortium.

When the Army releases the revised requirements, only C5’s 900-plus members will be eligible to compete for it. If interested, those members will be able to submit white paper proposals through the consortium, which will pass the bids along to Army contracting officials for consideration.

The new requirements have not been released yet, but a C5 representative told Nextgov they are expected within the next few weeks and will be immediately sent to consortium members.

While only C5 members will have access to the solicitation documents, other companies can join C5 at any time, a representative said. The annual membership fee is $500.

Along with access to C5 contracts, consortium members also get assistance with their proposals, which C5 contracting officials double-check before sending along to Army contracting officers.

The original solicitation proposed a single-award, multi-year contract with no dollar ceiling, though that could change under the new requirements.


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