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Leupold & Stevens Submits GAO Protest On USSOCOM’s S-VPS Program

Earlier this week, optics manufacturer Leupold & Stevens submitted a GAO protest of the U.S. Department of the Navy Surface Warfare Center Crane Division’s recent contract modification published on 18 July 2019, to the internal reticle under Solicitation No. N00164-18-R-JQ30 (“the Solicitation”) and Contract No. N00164-18-D-JQ30 (“the Contract”) for Miniature Aiming Systems-Day Squad-Variable Power Scopes (Second Focal Plane) to Sig Sauer, Inc. For this solicitation, Crane is working on behalf of United States Special Operations Command as their office of primary responsibility for lethality. SOF weapons and accessories as well as Visual Augmentation Systems are procured by Crane.

Leupold asserts that Crane improperly modified its contract with Sig Sauer and that the changes made to the contract were so substantial that the contract should be terminated and a new competition conducted for the modified requirements. The additional funding of the contract modification is so much when added to SIG’s winning bid that Leupold feels someone else would have been awarded the contract instead of SIG.

While the SIG Optics TANGO6T is at the heart of this action, it’s important to point out that the protest has nothing to do with performance. That hasn’t even been actually assessed yet as neither SIG nor Nightforce have delivered any production samples to the government. This is because USSOCOM decided to integrate a new reticle into S-VPS, the Tremor8.

When the program was created, a different reticle had initially been considered, but due to the adoption of 6.5 Creedmoor, SOCOM decided they wanted a bullet drop compensator reticle. Todd Hodnett had envisioned a new Tremor reticle and this was adopted, but in concept only. The reticle was sketched out on a napkin and included settings for 5.56 M855A1 as well as the new 6.5 CM round. Even when the optics had been selected and contracts awarded, the Tremor8 still did not exist. Just recently, months later, the reticle has finally been certified. Now that it has been certified, Nightforce and SIG can integrate the reticle into their scopes and deliver samples to the government for acceptance testing.

Both Nightforce and SIG will have to pay a license fee to include that reticle in the scopes the government will purchase, even though Nightforce shares an owner with Tremor8 creator Horus.

SIG’s winning submission to S-VPS (SFP) incorporated a proprietary wire reticle. While this was selected, SOCOM later decided they wanted an etched, illuminated Tremor8 reticle.

The additional cost of the integration of the Tremor8 into the SIG TANGO6T is what Leupold is protesting. Did the government violate its own requirement when it selected the SIG optic as submitted, or did the government select a product based on its own requirement and then direct the vendor to make changes which were costly? That is the heart of the question at hand. GAO will investigate the matter and make a determination. Possible outcomes are the status quo, a new solicitation, no procurement at all, or SIG being paid for at least a portion of the contract and a new solicitation being issued.

Read the redacted protest letter

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66 Responses to “Leupold & Stevens Submits GAO Protest On USSOCOM’s S-VPS Program”

  1. JR says:

    Yeah, sure let’s open it up to rebidding. It’s only taxpayer money wasted on resetting all of these contracts and we all know taxpayer money is magical as there is never a shortage of it.

    • TheScrutineer says:

      One more reason to love SIG’s new sales tactics.

    • Pdiddy says:

      That being said, if there was ever a solicitation to be protested it is this one. The government really screwed the pooch here. You cant just decide to do a major redesign of a recently awarded scope that went through source selection in a different form. This not just a basic reticle swap. Plenty of engineering and redesign to be done here

      • 4077 Something says:

        Plenty of engineering and re-design? The reticle has already been designed, the manufacturing procedure is not new, all that need be done is to scale the reticle to the platform.

      • Bill Brandon says:

        Why do you say it’s a major redesign? Like someone here mentioned, it’s just a laser etched drawing on glass. The scope hasn’t substantially been redesigned.

        • Bill77 says:

          The Sig uses a wire frame reticle – not glass etched. To convert a scope from reticle design to another is not a simple or cheap process.

      • Carleton Dimwitty says:

        So do you think the MHS contract should be stopped and reconsidered just because Big Army had SIG do some on the fly changes to the M17? Leupold is just crying here and GAO will smack it down.

    • Dave Riggins says:

      No kidding! Lets piss away more time and money. It’s the same optic structurally, all they did was do a redesign of the reticle! It’s just a drawing that’s laser etched on a piece of glass.

  2. TheScrutineer says:

    I don’t know if USSOCOM has taken receipt of any of the Tango6Ts yet, so it’s hard to say whether it’s too late for no procurement at all. I’d say it’s probably more likely that SIG will be paid for at least a portion of the contract and a new solicitation being issued, what with the scuttlebutt that SOCOM wasn’t happy with performance in T&E. Reminds me of what people were saying when early gen Vortex units started to circulate. Plus, isn’t this just another super ultra low bid so they can get their foot in the door like virtually all of their bids? SIG has a better handle on their firearms then these optics and their firearms are controversial enough.
    SOCOM needs to pony up and by NF.

    • Bill Brandon says:

      If SOCOM supposedly wasn’t happy during T&E why did they award SIG the contract?

      • bloke_from_ohio says:

        Sometimes OT fielding recommendations get ignored or downplayed. Program offices and customers sometimes field stuff that still needs work with the intent to fix it later. Sometimes they may not even bother trying to fix it.

        This behavior is often related to the way we program money in the USG/military. Remember, money in government land is not actually fungible, it has specific “colors” and can “expire.” This, among other things, drives us to live by the sunk cost fallacy as if it were not a fallacy but instead a really good management principal. Given the cost and risk involved in getting a new contract it may not actually be worth it to do it “right” at the end of the day.

        As for T&E, in addition to informing (but not making) the decision to field a system or not, test folks also try to figure out the warts a system might have on behalf of the intended operator. This helps mitigate any flaws found in testing that are not fixed before prime time. This is called deficiency reporting and it is a big deal.

        Lastly it is always really important to remember the axiom that If someone with enough clout wants something bad enough they are going to get it or something that looks like what they wanted enough to satisfy them.

  3. Chuck Covington says:

    Soooo, lemme get this straight. Leupold looses a bunch of it’s top engineers to SIG optics division and their product starts having QC issues. The public is starting to notice and word is getting around. So, they hoped a nice fat gov contract would offset the down turn in consumer sales. When they don’t get the contract based on merit they look for any little issue to grievance. Did they check the solicitation for spelling mistakes?? Petty.

    • Bill77 says:

      Little issue or grievance? Hate the protested all ya want, but the protest seems pretty frigging legit to me.

      Maybe the govt needs to stop writing vague solicitations and get more specific with their requirements. This isn’t the first one where the government stepped all over themselves on and it looks like they’re getting called out on it.

  4. Bill Brandon says:

    SOCOM wants to make a change on the fly so the optic would better suit their needs. What’s the problem? It’s an internal change to the reticle, big deal. Makes Leupold look unprofessional.

    • Bill77 says:

      Did you read the 8 page complaint? There’s more to it than “just an internal change to the reticle” and they make a pretty compelling case for why the Sig didn’t meet the requirement.

    • Pdiddy says:

      Its not just a reticle change brother. It requires a major redesign to the internal of the scope. Do some research, ask around. This has been a big topic of discussion since the original award. Not mention, just look at the numbers. No scopes have been delivered. None have even been in production because of this. The original award was for 12.5 mil. You telling me a simple reticle swap is 9mil? I am a leupold hater to the core, but they got this one right man. Sig won based on price. However, after this 9mil contract that puts total cost at 22ish mil which is at or higher than most of the other competitors.

  5. 4077 Something says:

    This is totally sour grapes. It reminds me of the all too recent Glock challenge to the SIG win of the MHS. We all know how that ended an this will end the same way.

  6. Carleton Dimwitty says:

    This is so reminiscent of Glocks challenge to SIGs win of the MHS. If you can’t win the first time based on quality and performance then challenge it based on inconsequential nonsense. The challenge is going to flame out and do nothing but embarrass Leupold.

    I expected better from Leupold. I have several of their scopes and my father used to hunt exclusively with Leupold. I always felt they had sold integrity and I based on their long and storied history. I guess I was wrong.

    • Corporal Captain says:

      I totally agree with you.

    • Rob says:

      No feelings in business. They have a valid complaint and this is the process for them to raise it. They are acting in a way that they feel best represents their interests.

      Also, companies challenging awards is ultimately a good thing for the end users as it keep procurement from becoming corrupt and ensures that all regulations and laws are followed. This means that the best equipment will be purchased. If the process is broken then they need to fix that rather than complain when companies expect them to follow it.

      • Atta Loss says:

        It’s not a good thing when it holds up fielding needed equipment. You’re saying the process is corrupt. Does that mean SIG and Crane have a special relationship?

        • Gear Guy says:

          Did you read the text provided or the complaint/filing? It clearly says that the government has not received any production samples for evaluation from either company, due to the change request and that development of the reticle was recently completed or that work is not due to be completed until 2029.

        • Jon says:

          If it holds up fielding needed equipment, maybe the PMO shouldn’t have changed the requirements dramatically after the contract was awarded. That alone has held up the fielding. It was a reticle drawn on a napkin…talk about professionalism.

    • Nonsensical Poet says:

      Sig won the pistol contract by bidding so low. If Glock was the same price they would have won. Sig underbid the contract again. This is the same thing . Sig under-bids and wins, then gets to charge more later. It reeks of decision makers having stock in Sig. Have you tried Sig optics lines? Not impressive at all.

    • Jon says:

      Actually it’s not. Sig won based on a cost of approximately 14 million. The required governmental modification upped the price by 9 million based on production, and engineering costs. Leupold feels slighted because their bid utilizing the original contract requirements lost, but then Crane totally changed the requirements. It would be like the Army bidding for a 9mm striker fired pistol, Sig winning then the Army saying…it might be 9mm but it needs to be SA/DA.

  7. Corporal Captain says:

    Consider me MASSIVELY disappointed in Leupold. I can’t believe they’d reduce themselves to petty butthurt tactics like this. This is more like something that GLOCK would resort to….

    I’ve lost a little faith in Leupold today.

    • Pdiddy says:

      You do not know the facts. Dont make such hasty decisions when you are ignorant on what is going on here. You sound like a liberal screaming for high capacity “clips” to be banned after a shooting that was done with a shotgun.

  8. OC Duce says:

    This mod stinks to high heaven! Goes to show you how bad SOCOM screwed up again. Their program mangers keep copying specs from other programs that leads to a flawed purchases.

    Perhaps they should replace some people and get it right the first time and remove the conflicts of interest (HORUS & NF same owner and Todd Hodnett promoting the T8 and owning a piece of HORUS).


  9. Jamie Catakos says:

    It’s like dealing with a bunch of progressives. If you don’t get the outcome that you want, SUE THEM!! Shame on you Leupold.

  10. RigsOnGradesKillinToads says:

    Lord knows there has been a fair share of protests in the world of government acquisitions. The GAO office exists for the very purpose of oversight and accountability regarding such business. There are as many illegitimate claims as there are legitimate ones. The optics and perception are typically just that to those that are clueless and have no dog in the fight.
    After reading the 8 pages and knowing what I know of the solicitation in question; Leupold did a solid job of presenting there case. I am very interested to see the outcome of this. A victory on behalf of Leupold could very well establish precedence and shape acquisitions of the future differently….maybe for the worst and possibly for the better. That part is hard to say. It takes balls to pony up and challenge the government as it can be considered a calculated risk. Sometimes one company may choose to fall on the sword for the betterment of the community. Again….its a calculated risk with an end goal in mind.
    Standing by with my popcorn covered in extra butter!

  11. Atta Loss says:

    The only ones to really lose will be the troops. Not only has this been held up, but now it promises to be held up even more due to a protest by a company that wasn’t going to win in the first place. Thanks for screwing the troops Leopold.

    • Gear Guy says:

      It is blatantly obvious that you have zero understanding of the acquisitions process, let alone reading comprehension. Just because a contract was awarded, it does not mean that an FRP decision comes with it and the items get fielded automatically. My guess is you are a cloner and you need “in the wild pics” so you can post yours on the “gram.”

      • Atta Loss says:

        Look how many years it took for SCAR to reach milestone-C. It was practically at full fielding by then.

    • Bill77 says:

      Read the complaint. It can also be “screwing the troops” if an inferior product gets selected because of how the pricing game is played. If the gov had specified what they wanted in the first place, the bid war could have been very different. Sig won using a reticle design that wasn’t compatible with the reticle technology eventually specified. There were several others that did submit that would have been compatible with the new reticle, but at a higher price. The combined price of the original Sig contract and the modification contract exceeds the total value of some of those other mfgs. Leupold says themselves and Nightforce (how they know that, I don’t know), but I imagine Vortex

      Remove the names of the companies from the mix so that the emotional element of brand loyalty is removed and it’s not difficult to see they have a point. This isn’t an F you to Sig as much as it is to the Gov.

      • Atta Loss says:

        Not if they make a major change after the acquisition decision, which is the case here. It wasn’t an “inferior product” when it was selected when it beat the competitors. If you read the article, there’s no way to make the claim it’s an inferior product. They haven’t bought any.

        • Bill77 says:

          I’ve read the article, but it’s irrelevant as it’s not the formal protest. As someone else said, a 77% increase in the value of a contract is HIGHLY suspect for a change that was required to have ZERO redesign associated with it. That’s what is the concern. Sig won because of being the lowest cost item- so low against their competitor’s that the government couldn’t exercise their “best value” option. Now it turns out that they couldn’t meet a critical specification as written by the government (accept reticles without major design changes) and they get another $9m to make said modification – which now makes their cost if not more expensive than competitor products, certainly put it in a neighborhood where the gov could have exercised their “best value” option. Call it sour grapes if you want and the gov may even cover for themselves with this – but that’s BS.

          Sig isn’t the bad guy here – neither is Leupold. When the government accepted and contracted the Sig, they got what they got. Sig should have said (not their fault they didn’t if it wasn’t asked) that they could provide other wire frame reticles at no additional cost as was specified. However, when the gov approaches them and says they want to add their latest wonder reticle and the response is inevitably that the reticle design isn’t compatible with their scope and that the new reticle requires significant redesign – the gov should have acknowledged that they got what they got and moved on without issuing a modification to the contract that was 3/4 of the value of the winning bid. Going from a wire frame reticle to an etched reticle isn’t a simple process and definitely constituted a major redesign, otherwise it wouldn’t have cost $9m to do it.

  12. Jack says:

    If I recall correctly the SIG SOCOM submission was SFP- and the NF was FFP

    TREMOR only really works in FFP.

    What are we missing here?

  13. Brian says:

    The LSI protest reads totally legit. However, having being protested myself before, the KO might have totally good reasons for their actions. Protests are a fact of life in government contracting. A 77% increase in the value of a contract is HIGHLY suspect for a change that was required to have ZERO redesign associated with it.

    I’m sure most of the people who are complaining about this also complained when KDH won the plate carrier contract a few years ago with that buckle filled abortion and then applauded when the contract was modified to include a cummerbund like the people they beat out offered in the first place.

  14. Atta Loss says:

    It looks like Leopold wants the military to spend even more money so they can get a redo. How much will it cost to start all over again? Worse yet, will they even have the money to start over again from scratch?

    • Gear Guy says:

      Please just stop posting, or if you decide to post again, detach your emotions from what you type and use some objectivity. Continuing to crap on Leupold and inferring that they are butthurt over this award to delay the fielding is asinine, especially when the performance of this contract will conclude 10 years from now and that they lay out their case in the actual protect documents that are there for you to actually read and not scan.

  15. Israel Hoffman says:

    I wonder how many senior NCO’s with operational experience are involved in these contract solicitations? Every time I read one it sounds like some asshole with bars just googled some catchy buzzwords and stitched them together.

    • Bill77 says:

      More than you think which is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because they bring their experience to the table (why they’re there in the first place), but bad because they aren’t professional contract writers or lawyers. Whatever they propose inevitably has to make it through legal scrutiny so that things aren’t too specific and it can be a truly fair and open competition.

      While the fault here lays at the hands of who wrote the specifications/solicitation, it’s hard to put it all on them because they’re not product professionals either. It’s easy to assume that a reticle is a reticle and swapping them around is no big deal – except that it is. Regardless of if they knew they wanted a Tremor8 or not, it probably would have been a good idea to ask industry what exactly is involved in reticle changes and at what point does it become economically unfeasible before committing things to paper.

      • RigsOnGradesKillinToads says:

        Man….I like this dude. He posts zackly what I’m thinking. Now all I gotta do is eat my popcorn with extra butter and wait for Bill77 to post. Keep it up brah!

        • Pdiddy says:

          Bill77 knows whats going on. Like me he is obviously someone with intimate knowledge on this matter.

      • Atta Loss says:

        You know what’s even more economically unfeasible? When money expires.

      • Jason says:

        That’s an interesting point. That kind of problem seems to pop up in all fields where the “in the trenches” person has to interface with an external person to make something. Like physicians and engineers making a medical device: engineers have little experience with the clinical aspect and clinicians have little hard science/engineering background. So the former may not understand the limitations of certain technologies while the latter may not understand the nitty-gritty details of how the device is used in real life and how small details can make it more/less usable.

        And there’s very few people who are cross-trained to do both. How many NCO’s w/ recent field experience also have a degree in law/business? Not many. There isn’t a good answer for this besides having as much communication and face-time between the team as possible.

  16. GoldenChili says:

    Has anybody actually seen what this Tremor8 looks like? I don’t quite get why you’d want to mix a 5.56 and 6.5 BDC in the same reticle, or how to do it without it looking like crap.

    Also, a 6x scope is mighty low power for 6.5CM, are they putting it on modified SCARs or something?

  17. Armyfins says:


  18. Scooter says:


  19. Game-Blouses says:


  20. Jeb says:

    Sounds like there is the point of integrity and honesty being lost somewhere. Either in the writing of the original solicitation, in the way the solicitation was processed and most assuredly in the way this was handled after knowing Sig could not truly compete at the time of solicitation. Maybe I’m just ignorant to language of .gov contracts. I do know Sig is offering huge incentives to engineers and folks with development history amongst their competitors to come and work for them. This is a fact that cannot be disputed. They buy their competitions employees…at insane price points. I don’t hate Sig, Leupold or NF – have products built by all three. Regardless, I won’t invest in Sig optics. Ever. Especially when I have NF and Leupold with fielded history of abuse. Sometimes, even big name corporations need to stay in their lane and Sig is a firearm manufacturer first and foremost. Every Sig optic I’ve seen sucks beyond full suction.

    Why doesn’t solicitation include language in effect of ‘time and length of manufacture’ for companies, as a prerequisite of sorts? Optic solicitation would state that manufacturers MUST have so and so many years of optic manufacturing. Same with weapon solicitations.

  21. T says:

    Is anyone else curious what scope Leupold submitted? I am not aware of them making any “combat – grade” 1-6x SFP scopes.

  22. Fury says:

    Thanks for the good discussion on this Mr. SSD and posters. It seems to be a substantial change. We got burned by this once, but it was the vendor that lowballed the bid then came back two months later and said they “made some errors”. Ended up tossing their bid and starting over.