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

Bottom Line Up Front: The Government Accounting Officer has sustained Leupold & Stevens’ protest against the U.S. Department of the Navy Surface Warfare Center Crane Division’s recent contract modification for Miniature Aiming Systems-Day Squad-Variable Power Scopes (Second Focal Plane).

Leupold has “won” but they didn’t get anything tangible from the protest. Unlike many other protests, they won’t be awarded anything. It’s more a moral victory.

On the other hand, Crane won’t be able to pay SIG SAUER for changes to the optics they’ve directed.

Other than withdrawing the contract modification, Crane has not announced a course of action to correct the situation. Possible outcomes are to purchase the optics with a different reticle, a new solicitation, no procurement at all, a new solicitation being issued. Alternatively, SIG may decide you eat the cost of the government directed changes.


In August, 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 was 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 asserted 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.

In fact, Nightforce has already provided first production samples and they’ve passed Destructive Testing at Crane. They’ve completed the New Equipment Training and Operational Testing earlier this month and should have the Fielding & Deployment Release by early November.

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. Naturally, this increased cost and the government paying for the additional cost of the integration of the Tremor8 into the SIG TANGO6T is what Leupold protested.

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

  1. OC Duce says:

    Wya to go! Thank you Leupold for stopping stupid stuff like this!

    OC Duce

    • WTAF? says:

      They didn’t actually stop anything. All they did was make it harder on the troops who need optics.

      • OC Duce says:

        Pull your head out! The way SOCOM did this causes delays and runs up the costs while screwing the troops.

      • Adam says:

        Very shady. Amending the deal later and tacking in more funding. I’d be pissed as well if I lost a competition due to a lower bidder who ended up negotiating for more money

      • TominVA says:

        Right, it was the money-grubbing contractor’s fault?

        Try this: start a business, compete for months for government work, take out a LOC on your home so you can make payroll, then sit back and watch the contracting office award to your competitor via flagrant violation(s) of the FAR.

        It is not my patriotic duty to sit back and watch my business suffer, possibly die (and put people out of work), while the government plays loose with the rules!

        Maybe…maybe…if they care about supporting the troops, the contracting office should un-eff itself, and abide by the FAR?

        Maybe in the end Leupold gains nothing, but protest plays a vital policing role in the contracting world. I say BZ to Leupold!!!

        • Tom says:

          We need a like button for comments like this ^

          The other half of this is to create some limitations with the acquisition categories that banish LPTA for what is essentially mission critical equipment – Best Value only.

          Oversimplification, but man it is frustrating to see weapons and equipment acquisitions processes (and some people) suck so badly.

          • SSD says:

            Agreed. However, in this case, there were three proposals (amongst others) submitted that used the same optics package. This was best value. The issue at hand is that the vendor gave the government what it asked for and the government selected the scope based on that criteria. Only after selecting g it did they direct the multiple changes to the scope.

            • Tom says:

              Of course, even Best Value can’t prevent price dumping while still maintaining minimum criteria.

              I will put money on a clear winner being selected if a second competition is run with tracking and zero retention KPPs pre and post impact…

              Will just have to see how it pans out. I agree they’ll likely just eat the cost for modification and make it up in commercial sales plus future Government orders.

              • SSD says:

                So you want the government to absorb the cost of running a second solicitation because the optic you like wasn’t selected? Not to mention the further delay of fielding? What happens if your favorite isn’t selected a second time? Another competition?

  2. Rascon Jon says:

    And this is why contracts always extend and cost over budget… The PMO has NO authority to make these changes without the KO signing off on it.

    • Bill77 says:

      Well who do you think signed off on it? USSOCOM/Crane certainly didn’t grant a contract without a KO being a part of the process.

  3. Brian says:

    There was no way this wasn’t going to get sustained. It was a textbook case of what not to do as a KO. Of course there was a 300% contract increase to Knights announced by Crane last week so maybe this is just how the Navy roles.

    • roy says:

      Can you provide links/details re Knights?

      • Richie says:

        I think it was for CASS uppers in 6.5CM

        • Tom says:

          No, but easy to get mixed up with all the similar programs going on! It’s basically a contract modification for the M110K1 to 6.5 Creedmoor.

          This was a totally different case that S-VPS. The M110 effort was for an existing item and contract that nobody else would have the TDP for. A sole source was totally understandable for it.

  4. Bobby Davro says:

    Sig will eat the cost and do the modifications just to piss off leupold and show good grace for future contracts

  5. Ck says:

    SSD, Any pictures of the tremor 8 reticle yet??

  6. PeterLemonjello says:

    Ck, there was an ad that ran in Tactical Retailer a month ago and the reticle was in the ad:

  7. RigsOnGradesKillinToads says:

    Ok…so this is how I understand it. Hopefully someone in the know can confirm…..or deny.

    There were several down selects for SFP; Vortex, Sig, Leupold and Nightforce. Leupold, Vortex and Nightforce submitted proposals with scopes that contained etched glass reticles; Sig submitted a wire style reticle. One of the threshold requirements of the solicitation was that the reticles could be exchanged without any other modification to the scope. Vortex even went so far as to submit a proposal for a wire reticle and a glass reticle with a distinct price difference to let the government choose what they wanted. To install a glass reticle in place of a wire reticle requires significant design change, especially when using the daylight bright technology as there needs to be clearance inside an already tight 30mm body tube. Sig was awarded approx. $13m for the initial SFP S-VPS award. The contract mod they were awarded was for an additional $9.3m for re-engineering to accept the glass T8 reticle chosen by SOCOM…so overall total of approx. $22.3m. Granted, its worth mentioning that development of the new reticle which became the T8 began well before the solicitation was published, but became a final design after award. So now, if you consider the new total value of their contract, the other competitors could have been evaluated more evenly as they were already able to accept the glass reticle without re-engineering and their proposal price reflected such. This was Leuppld’s basis for their protest. I can only assume their final cost to SOCOM was less than the combined value awarded to Sig or they would not have invested their energy to protest. Sig won the initial award based on such a low cost to the government, that it was impossible for them to justify an award to one of the others even considering it was to be graded as “Best Value” to the government and not “Lowest Price Technically Acceptable or LPTA”. This was all assuming they were equal, but according to the additional $9.3m award modification….they were not. Leupold contested based on this premise and won. Unfortunately for Leupold, there was no re-award of the contract…..only that the $9.3m contract mod to Sig was cancelled which has the govt. scrambling to resolve an imminent need to field equipment. It’s worth mentioning, that this contract is now one year in and no equipment has been delivered to the field and could still be significantly longer depending on how SOCOM chooses to resolve it.

    • WTAF? says:

      That’s pretty good. I’d say you’ve either been talking to someone at Leupold or work somewhere in USASOC. However, the reticle wasn’t actually under development. In fact, G8 and Hodnett got into a bit of a spat over ownership. Crane couldn’t make the award knowing what the reticle would be, because it didn’t exist.

      • RigsOnGradesKillinToads says:

        None of the above…but talk to the MIL guys at the companies whom submitted who seem to be pretty plugged in with the govt.