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More SPS-TEP Shenanigans

In case you missed last week’s post on the US Army’s Soldier Protection System – Torso and Extremity Protection program’s issues regarding contracting and requirements changes, you need the go back and read it because there were a lot of revelations by a guy who works for the company that originally developed the winning system for the USMC, before it was adopted by the Army.  A commentor who adopted the monicker “Nice Try” made some interesting assertions about the government design as well as the program overall, and even went so far as to admitting to purchasing at least one commercial armor vest while working on the Scalable Modular Vest program. I’ll call that his “Edward Snowden” moment. It’s an accepted fact in the international community that governments spy on one another. Nobody makes any noise about it unless obvious evidence is presented and that’s exactly what Snowden did when he disclosed classified document after document detailing US intelligence operations. Naturally, some of those governments complained.  The same goes in the tactical industry. Companies know that their competitors are buying or otherwise getting ahold of their products but no one says anything, until someone admits to doing it. “Nice Try” is that guy. His employer should expect some fallout over his actions. He also made statements that led us to believe that his company continued to work on the SMV after it was not adopted by the Marines, and picked by the Army as their SPS-TEP candidate.

One of “Nice Try’s” claims is that no commercial technologies were transferred into the SMV design but this assertion was later disputed in a comment by TYR Tactical CEO Jason Beck. In particular Beck is concerned about his patent pending ballistic vein which looks surprisingly similar to the “card” found in the MSV during industry day.  

  
This “card” was not a component of the original MSV tested by the Marine Corps so it had to have been introduced to the vest sometime later, after it was chosen by the Army to be their SPS-TEP candidate. TYR Tactical’s patent pending ballistic vein on the other hand was a component in their vest design submitted to the program via their prime, Point Blank. I asked Jason Beck to amplify information regarding the ballistic vein in his comment on the original post and he provided this statement.  

I originally designed the ballistic vein in the summer of 2010 as part of our Modular Scalable Tailorable (MST) system, which was down selected by PEO for that solicitation. There were two original intents for the advent of the vein. (Editor’s note: MST was one of the Soldier Protection Demonstrations which were designed to investigate various commercial armor technologies.  For example, SPD 7 resulted in the adoption of the Soldier Plate Carrier System.)

The first intent was to increase load carriage performance specifically for a tactical nylon carrier. Historically, tactical carriers have lacked stability and rigidity. For example, if you try to set one up vertically on a table or on the floor, it will likely just fall over. Once the carrier is being worn, the same lack of structure affects the wearer’s overall load carriage when placing pouches, tools or any additional weight to the nylon. The result is pulling or sagging of the carrier, ultimately causing fatigue due to improper load carriage.

The second intent was to incorporate the vein as part of an overall system to enhance ballistic performance of both soft armor and plates. When we tested the vein in our system (and in conjunction with other manufacturers armor), it actually enhanced the overall ballistic performance of both fragmentation and stability throughout first, second and third round hits of 9mm. Back face deformation was reduced, and V50 performance was enhanced. The vein helps prevent bunching of the soft armor and supports the plates and soft armor to improve edge hit protection.

The vein has been presented multiple times to the Army in several solicitations and white papers since 2010, including the most recent SPS solicitation for which we were down selected with our former partner for SPS. Our tactical carrier and ballistic vein were submitted along with PPEs soft armor solution. The vein was an integral part of every iteration of the system that we submitted for SPS. Obviously, the TYR Tactical/PPE system was not chosen, although a ballistic vein is present in the Army’s final selection.

We have placed the vein in all of our tactical systems, and many of our other ballistic and load carriage products since it was developed in 2010. It’s original intent was solely for tactical carriers and vests, but based on the performance we have seen, it is also incorporated into multiple ballistic products ranging from low vis carriers, collars, throats, biceps, belts, etc.

What is disheartening about the vein showing up in the system that was chosen for SPS, is that we followed the process as it was presented to us, and we were assured that process would be fair and open. We went down the path to protect our IP by filing a patent, which was well documented at the beginning and throughout every step of the SPS submission process. Industry was given left and right limits to follow, but in the end those same standards were not applicable to the Army’s selection.

Ultimately, along with many other factors, led me for the first time in 17 years of business, to come to the decision to file an official protest

Based on statements by Jason Beck and “Nice Try” we know that the Army saw the technology several times and in particular during the SPS-TEP source selection process. As far as we know, it was not present in any of the other candidate’s vests during the solictation and it is not a common item found in commercial or government design armor vests, so we can say that it was thought to be unique to TYR Tactical. Yet, both have similar designs and seem to function in a similar manner. We are not sure when the Army introduced it to the government design except that it happened after the USMC accepted the original MSVs but prior to the end of the down select. Nor do we understand why and how the Army developed the card. Although TYR Tactical was a subcontractor on the SPS-TEP solicitation, they still submitted a protest due in part, to the presence of the card in the Army design, as well as other irregularities with soliciation. In responding to the protest, the Army failed to address their concerns.

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11 Responses to “More SPS-TEP Shenanigans”

  1. Vince says:

    From a non-industry viewpoint, it appears that any company providing a response to a solicitation should ensure the most thorough protections are put in place with regards to both IP and product design patents prior to submittal. It is like gambling with devil. At some point, a decision must be made as to whether the risk is worth the reward both fiscally and from a principle standpoint. My assumption is that manufacturers hold their cards close and restrict the release of their “cutting edge” developments in an effort to prevent the loss of future revenue from a client who could potentially use their designs and r&d without reciprocation. This only serves to curtail advancement in the industry. I believe their are unseen advancements that would blow the current standards out of the water but are artificially manipulated (withheld) to maintain status quo because of incidents like this.

    • Jon says:

      I make gear as a hobby, and spend a good amount of time on various forums regarding gear making.

      Many of the gear makers on the forum do exactly that. Some have designs for new release mechanism, plate shapes, modular attachment systems, etc, and refuse to release them for fear that they will just be stolen by larger competitors or government contractors.

      There are absolutely ideas out there that would improve the level of protection and performance of the gear our soldiers wear, and many are reserved or secreted away out of fear of other peoples’ greed.

  2. Terry says:

    When I worked for a large defence company, I ordered some tactical nylon products from another company and they refused to sell to me because they “didn’t want me stealing their designs”.

    While the company I worked for did make tactical nylon in one of its divisions, I pointed out that I worked on radar systems, that it was for personal use, and that if I were stealing designs, I certainly wouldn’t have used my work email and postal address. At the time I thought that they were being paranoid, but after reading this, maybe there is _some_ justification.

    Their manner was, however, rude and abrasive.

  3. SN says:

    The tax payers lose again when the courts rule against the Army.

    PEO Soldier needs to clean house. This is not the first patent infringement we have seen in the last decade, elimination the senior civilian positions would send a clear message to the remaining workforce.

  4. Brian says:

    This has become regular practice by PEO Soldier. Whether you’re looking at garments (OCP “Scorpion”, CMBT pants) etc., or equipment (medium pack, SPCS, SPS) on down the line. The Army is and has been bullying industry and stealing ideas because patent infringement is often stalled and not enforced. For an organization that cites integrity as one of their institutional values, they’re are not demonstrating it on this front.

  5. Dev says:

    Sorry, I’ve read this again a few times now and the other article. Did Nice Try actually add anything of substance to this (very heated at times) discussion, or was he just trolling as concluded in the previous thread?

  6. AW says:

    In my opinion the fact that the Army or any branch of the military does not sign NDAs is a HUGE Red Flag. When I personally visited PEO Soldier with my invention, it was drop your shorts and hope you get a reach around!

  7. Sgt A says:

    NT connected all the dots there – even if it was somebody totally uninvolved directly, the point is that the only two plausible versions of how that feature set ended up in the government design were fundamentally unacceptable, as either outright intellectual theft or engaging in the sort of bad-faith contracting practices that estranges the Army from the commercial-industrial base it needs in order to fight the next war.

  8. Matt says:

    Anymore I’m not sure why any manufacturer would submit a new technology to the army for trials. It seems to be they “borrow” ideas and call them their own. As for the “ballistic vein” people have been using frame sheets for years or stiffener it’s not anything new just cause you cut holes in it to lighten it up. Patenting things in the tactical nylon industry is silly in my opinion when all it takes is a 10-15 percent change for it to be considered a different product.

  9. USAF_OT&E says:

    After reading about this debacle and from my own experiences working OT&E on the USAF side, I’m starting to think that the entire DoD acquisitions program needs to be revamped due to serious systemic problems that results in the wrong product being delivered to the warfighters.

  10. balais says:

    WOW!!!!

    I just caught myself up on this entire circus.

    WOW!!!

    Thats all I can say. I dont consider it a “edward snowden” moment though. More like when one of them derp moments when somebody accidentally/inadvertently releases state secrets 🙂 Or when one takes their own ego too seriously and shows all of their cards.

    Funny, but also sad. Disturbing too. Now watch as all of the innovative, independent, smaller businesses now rush to provide the latest and greatest products to the american warfighter /s/