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What Exactly Did Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Mark Milley Say To the SASC Regarding Small Arms?

Monday, May 29th, 2017

GEN Mark A Milley is the finest Chief of Staff our Army has seen in recent memory. He gets it. The story goes that earlier this year he sat all of the Army’s Program Executive Office’s and told them that the acquisition system is taking too long. PEOs are too focused on the process and not on getting the product to the troops. It’s no coincidence that late last year we began to see numerous “directed requirements” from senior Army leaders, instructing the PEOs to figure out how to procure certain capabilities. In some cases, they are pieces of equipment which will be used in new ways and in other instances they are items already in use by SOCOM. One of those directed requirements plays a serious, behind the scenes role, in GEN Milley’s testimony.

GEN Milley

After GEN Milley’s testimony on May 25th before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the state of the Army, a couple of press reports detailing what GEN Milley said regarding the direction of Army Small Arms caught my eye. As they contained some nonspecific information, I decided to share what he actually said in his testimony.

Below is his prepared testimony:

Our Soldiers remain the backbone of every Army capability, and our infantry units must be equipped with modern weapons. We request support to increase readiness by completing M4A1 Carbine pure-fleet fielding, developing Next Generation Squad Weapons, procuring anti-tank weapons, such as the Javelin and tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided (TOW) anti-tank guided missiles, and beginning procurement of the Lightweight Command Launch Unit for Javelin. Additionally, we seek congressional support for a variety of simulators and virtual training devices to significantly increase the repetition and experience base of our Soldiers and leaders at the tactical level in individual, collective, squad, and small unit operations given intense, complex, combat scenarios.

As you can see, the Army’s official budget position is that it wants to continue fielding the M4A1 (which is in 5.56mm) and develop Next-Generation Squad Weapons. What should raise everyone’s eyebrows is the emphasis on anti-tank weapons. GEN Milley has been very vocal about the Russian threat, stating, “The greatest capability remains Russia.” However, he also acknowledged that North Korea is the most immediate threat.


During the Q&A with the committee, GEN Milley was a bit more forthcoming about threats, countering them, and the M4. Although, he often spoke in generic terms, he did offer a couple of revelations.

Senator Angus King (I, ME) asked GEN Milley specifically about the M4 and whether the Army needed a new weapon. GEN Milley responded that the Army has concerns about body armor penetration. He said, “We recognize the 5.56mm round, there is a type of body armor it doesn’t penetrate. We have it as well. Adversarial states are selling it for $250.” He went on to say, “There’s a need, an operational need. We think we can do it relatively quickly,” and went on to say, “The key is not the rifle, it’s the bullet.” GEN Milley sated that they’ve done some experimentation at Ft Benning and they have a solution. When asked by Sen King if it would require a new rifle, GEN Milley responded, “It might, but probably not.” GEN Milley went on to explain that the “bullet can be chambered in various calibers, it can be modified to 5.56, 7.62.” We believe he is referring here to the Enhanced Performance Round projectile found in the M855A1.


GEN Milley specifically mentioned a 7.62mm round later in his testimony to Ranking Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island when asked if this new cartridge would be interoperable with NATO. GEN Milley stated he believed it was, but would prepare a formal answer for the committee. GEN Milley also informed Senator Reed that the new 7.62mm round could be in production within a year or two. GEN Milley went on regarding the choice of 7.62mm, testifying, “This idea that in the Army, that everyone needs the same thing all of the time is not necessarily true. There are some units, some infantry units, that are much more likely to rapidly deploy than others and conduct close quarters combat, that we would probably want to field them with a better grade weapon that will penetrate this body armor that we are talking about.”

While he didn’t come out and say it, based on what we know has been going on, we believe he meant the M80A1 paired with the H&K G28. This testimony falls right in line with what we heard months ago and wrote about in early April regarding Army interest in fielding a 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle. Additionally, there is currently a Four-Star level directed requirement for 6,069 G28s configured as Squad Designated Marksman Rifles to be fielded to the BCTs. The 7.26mm NATO G28, which is a Squad Designated Marksman Rifle variant of the Heckler & Koch 417, developed for the German Bundeswehr, came to the attention of the Army thanks to its selection as the M110A1 Compact Semi Auto Sniper System. Additionally, the Army is quite satisfied with the performance of the M855A1 cartridge and by extension, its 7.62mm counterpart, the M80A1.

As we mentioned last week, there are multiple weapon solutions, currently fielded and readily available. The services just need to make a decision and move forward. Based on what’s currently on the table, they will field a “Better” capability than what they currently have at their disposal. Even GEN Milley agrees. When Senator King asked him if there was an off the shelf rifle which could be an upgrade to the M4, Milley replied, “Yes, there are several out there.”

Bottom line, the Army is asking for money to pure fleet to the M4A1, but it’s also letting Congress know that it’s open to a new service rifle. However, as the testimony went on, this position took an interesting turn.

Senator Joni Ernst, (R, IA) echoed Senator King’s concerns about the M4 and mentioned that it does not penetrate Russian body armor. A retired LTC, she served in the Army Reserve and Iowa Army National Guard as a logistics officer; commanding the 185th Combat Support Battalion at Camp Dodge. She stated there is a need to prioritize small arms in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

Senator Ernst asked if that, once the Army has settled on a caliber, would prefer a new, purpose-built weapon or an off-the-shelf solution. GEN Millie responded, “I don’t know that the two of those are mutually exclusive. There are systems out there today, on the shelf, that with some very minor modifications could be adapted to munitions that we’re developing at Fort Benning that could be used to penetrate these SAPI plates that our adversaries are developing.” He went on to amplify his answer, “It’s not necessarily an either or proposition on that one. I think there’s weapons out there that we can get, in the right caliber, that can enhance the capability of the infantry soldier.” Senator Ernst was pleased to hear that MCOTS solutions were an option in light of potential savings.

Everything we are seeing happen on the acquisition side demonstrates the Army’s interest in the G28, but during this next round of questions, there was an unexpected answer. Senator Ernst brought up MG Scales’ testimony to the Airland Subcommiitee which we recently shared. She mentioned MG Scales’ testimony, referring to a weapon which could fulfill the role of rifle and light machine gun, asking which is more important. GEN Milley responded that they complement one another. Now, here is the bombshell. GEN Milley said, “I think what’s he’s (MG Scales) talking about is the Marines are adopting the M27. We’re taking a hard look at that and are probably going to go in that direction as well, but we haven’t made a final decision on it. Infantry squads, infantry platoons they’ve got to have an automatic weapon for suppression. They’ve got to have the individual weapon as well. So you need both, it’s not one or the other.”

Once again, the budget priorities of M4A1 and Next Generation Squad Weapon follow the spirit of the service chief’s testimony. What’s more, the comments regarding the 7.62mm cartridge follow what we see going on behind the scenes. However, the revelation that the Army is considering the 5.56mm M27 is quite a surprise considering he mentioned a new 7.62mm round earlier. Perhaps he means the M27 as a future 5.56mm weapon for non-Infantry forces, as he was quite specific that the Army doesn’t intend to pure fleet the 7.62 solution, but rather field it to Infantry formations.

Regardless of specific systems requested, our opinion is that the US military’s greatest challenge is the Budget Control Act of 2011 which has hamstrung efforts to not only modernize, but just recapitalize capabilities worn out by over a decade of constant warfare. To make matters worse, continuing resolutions stymie efforts to spend consistently through a budget cycle, resulting in last minute purchases. Additionally, over the past eight years, the Army had to reduce end strength by over 100,000 Soldiers. This reduction included removing 17 brigade combat teams from the Army. Considering we go to war with the Army we have, these cuts were short sighted. When the Army talks about the ability to “Fight Tonight”, there’s no way to develop a replacement for that lost capability overnight. It will take years to rebuild what the last administration dismantled. GEN Milley testified that it would take three years to but a Brigade Combat Team together from scratch. As a hedge, the Army plans to stand up five Security Force Assistance Brigades in the near-term, which are made up of leadership structure, essentially chains of command, with no line troops. They will be used to advise allies and serve as a standing force structure for new troops to fall in on during mobilization, similar to the COHORT units of the 80s. Such plans withstanding, concerns of a “Hollow Army” are valid and there are those who are comparing our current situation to the early 80s recovery from the damage done to the military by the Carter administration. Unfortunately, the President’s budget calls for no increase in end strength and current operational demands are consuming readiness as fast as the Army can produce it. This means that as quickly as Army units are deemed at the highest readiness level, they are committed to use, which will degrade their readiness. With this challenge, it’s no wonder modernization has taken a back seat.

All of the services have a lot of rebuilding to do, in terms of both personnel and equipment. Just as daunting a task is to build capability for future threats. We have to be able to do both, simultaneously. Hopefully, Congress will have the wherewithal to consistently appropriate the funds needed to ensure America’s Army remains the world’s most dominant land warfare force.

Statement for the Record – Senate Armed Services Committee: Airland Subcommittee – 17 May 2017 LTG (R) John M. Bednarek

Monday, May 29th, 2017

We recently shared Retired MG Robert Sclaes’ testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s AIRLAND Subcommittee regarding US Small Arms. He was joined that day by LTG (R) John M. Bednarek (USA). LTG Bednarek’s testimony is very much in line with what we see the Army actually doing. Considering he was the Chief of the Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) in Iraq when he retired, it makes sense he would have the Army’s pulse. LTG Bednarek has commanded Army echelons from Platoon to Division, and beyond. A career Infantry officer, he commanded 2/75 and the 25th ID. LTG Bednarek was an excellent choice to tell the SASC what is going on.

Mr Chairman:

Thanks to you and all the Members for the opportunity to provide a few insights on our Armed Forces small arms weapon systems. As stated, the purpose of today’s hearing is to discuss a current assessment of US military small arms requirements, our known threat environment, and to share thoughts on potential options to better equip our Infantry units with the most effective small arms available, including emerging technologies. From a broader perspective, this committee has a tremendous opportunity. That opportunity is to reinforce a higher priority in our DoD budget and procurement activities to directly influence the needed increased lethality across our Infantry formations.

Clearly one challenge is the delicate balance to improve our capability, increase our battlefield lethality, while watching our government costs. Our Nation’s ground forces, with their weapons and enablers, remain the most formidable ally on the planet. Our troops and their individual weapons, are a system of systems designed with one purpose: to close with and defeat our adversaries. They MUST be lethal.

Lethality is the primary factor that guides capability development for all our combat troops to fight and win in all operating environments. It’s all about readiness. It’s all about effects to kill the enemy. Our Services – and our collective energies – must continue to research, develop, and provide the very best capabilities available for the future fights we know will come.

We don’t want “near-peer competitors”. Our Nation expects our ground combat troops to be the best equipped force on earth. We want overmatch. I’m not looking for a fair fight anywhere.

The current M4 Carbine family of weapons has served our Army and Marine Infantry forces well for the past decade plus. Product improvements have provided our Soldiers and Marines the best available 5.56 caliber weapon available. I have trained with, and been in firefights with – the M4 Carbine across Iraq over the past 9 years. It has performed well.

However, as this Committee has heard, and multiple studies have shown, it is time to upgrade to a higher, more lethal caliber weapon system for our Infantry ground troops–regardless of Service or component. It’s time to modernize our Infantry weapon capabilities. It’s my opinion that our Service Chief’s fully recognize this – CSA GEN Mark Milley & CMC Bob Neller – and they are
moving out to get what they need.

I’d to highlight three key factors for the Committee’s consideration and assessment:

At the start of our current named operations (OIF / OEF, etc), we were shooting enemy combatants wearing T-shirts and baggy pants – a LOT of them. They’re still wearing T-shirts and baggy pants, but now with near level II & III body armor. Our capability to eliminate this threat at medium to long range distance is almost one. We must have small arms systems that can stop and penetrate this increased enemy protection.

All our Service Chiefs, especially GEN Mark Milley, are on public record on the current challenges and excessive bureaucracy in our current DoD processes. While I’m not a procurement nor contracting expert, I do not want to look another Soldier in the eyes and tell him or her that our leaders have not provided them the best weapon system available because it’s tied up in acquisition masking tape. A 5-7 year acquisition cycle to procure weapons and equipment that our warfighters needed yesterday is unconscionable.

While the discussion today is principally focused on small arms weapons, we must remember that our Services strategic approach that gives US combat forces the decisive edge is the holistic systems approach. It is NOT just our weapons. It’s not just a higher caliber bullet, caseless or polymer munitions. It’s about the “system”. It is our “human dimension”.

The training and leader development we provide our Infantry Soldiers (and others) that make them the best close combat formations on the planet. It’s the term of “Mission Command”. Trust and decentralization – the fact that we train our small units to operate without specific instructions and then trust them to execute based on commander’s intent.

This approach includes our Soldiers and Marines fighting together as teams. It includes sights, optics, embedded laser range finders, night vision, radios to communicate with fellow troops to
provide over-watching fires. It’s about supporting capabilities of mortars, artillery, helicopter gun-ships, close air support, USAF fighter aircraft. It’s about training our combined arms teams that gives us the overmatch.

Sustained emphasis on this “systems approach” to our military capability must not be overlooked.

Ongoing Service Actions:
Current and future capabilities include continuing the “pure-fleeting” the Total Force with our current M4A1 carbine. Recent purchases of the new SIG SAUER pistol (modular system) starts fielding with the 101st AASLT DIV in several months.

U.S. Special Operations Command, in coordination with the U.S. Marine Corps, is looking into sources for a brand new lightweight machine gun from defense contractors, one that can bridge the gap in distance and lethality between the 7.62-mm light machine gun and the .50 caliber M2.

Other activities include:
a. Squad Designated Marksman Rifle (SDM).
We must have increased caliber weapon systems in our baseline formations. The Army is buying a variant of the Heckler and Koch 417, 7.62 mm Rifle to be fielded as a SDM Rifle. Each Brigade Combat Team (BCT) rifle squad will be provided with a SDM Rifle to increase reach and lethality. Since this is a modified “COTS” commercial solution, fielding begins in 18 months.

b. Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR). (Editor’s note: He is referring to what USSOCOM calls the Advanced Sniper Rifle. The Army’s name for the program is PSR which may cause some confusion.)
The PSR will replace the M110, M107, and M2010 Sniper rifles and provide increased range and lethality against individual targets and light vehicles. This rifle will give our snipers the punch and reach that they have in the .50 sniper rifle in a much lighter package. Army-wide fielding is scheduled to start in FY20.

c. M3 Carl Gustaf 84mm Recoilless Rifle.
The Carl Gustaf is currently being fielded to Army Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCT) Rifle platoons to provide increased capability. The M3/M3E1 enables rifle platoons to engage area targets with a manual air-bursting capability and point targets. Light armor targets can also be engaged. Lightweight Carl Gustaf fielding begins in FY20.

d. Next Generation Soldier Weapons (NGSW).
The NGSW family of small arms will replace current squad (rifle/carbine, squad automatic weapon, and sub-compact) weapons. Production is slated to start in FY23. Informed by the Small Arms Ammunition Caliber Study (final report is expected this month ), the NGSW will provide the increased range and lethality to maintain overmatch.

e. Small Arms Fire Control (SA-FC).
SA-FC is under development for Precision (sniper) rifles, Crew Served weapons, and Squad/Individual weapons. SA-FC will provide a modular integrated set of systems (including determination of range, meteorological data, target acquisition, ballistic solution and display of adjusted aiming point) that when combined will increase the probability of hit and decrease the time to engage target sets. These solutions will leverage equivalent Family of Weapon Sights to provide day, night, and obscured battlefield environments capability. (Examples include the M901 (sic) 7.62 rifle, interchangeable upper receiver conversion kits; .338 Norma Magnum machine gun; etc)

We must not wait to react to current or future threats. We must continue to leverage our wide and diverse intelligence activities and study our potential adversaries to gain and maintain Soldier equipment – including improved small arms – superiority.

Former Chief, Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq (2013-2015)

Statement for the Record Senate Armed Services Committee: Airland Subcommittee May 18, 2017–MG Robert H. Scales, USA (Ret)

Friday, May 19th, 2017

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcommittee is concerned with overmatch of US small arms by threat systems. This Statement for the Record to the Senate Armed Services Committee was offered to on May 18, 2017, By Major General (Retired) Robert H. Scales.

Mr. Chairman: Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before your subcommittee. I’ve waited many years for this moment.

Since the end of World War II the richest and most technologically advanced country in the world has sent its Soldiers and Marines into combat with inferior small arms. So inferior, fact, that thousands have died needlessly. They died because the Army’s weapon buying bureaucracy has consistently denied that a Soldier’s individual weapon is important enough to gain their serious attention.

The stories are a century old and as new as today. The venerable “Ma Deuce” 50 caliber machine gun, the one most Soldiers use in mounted combat, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019. Try to imagine any service (other than our ground services) still holding on to a centenarian for a weapon. The M249 Squad Automatic Weapon performed so badly in Iraq and Afghanistan that the last commandant of the Marine Corps wrote a check to get rid of it in infantry squads. He replaced it with the superb HK 416, the finest automatic rifle in the free world. By the way it was a German made HK, not an American weapon, that killed bin Laden.

After fifteen years of testing and a $175 million investment the Army achieved a breakthrough with acceptance of the XM 25 grenade launcher. This amazing weapon fires a “smart” grenade that uses a laser to determine the range to an enemy hiding behind defilade, then transmits that data to the grenade. The XM 25 reaches out with great precision to 500 meters or more and detonates the grenade directly over the head of an enemy hiding behind a wall or inside a building. No longer will the Taliban be able to huddle under cover until our infantry fires slacken before he runs away. Now he has nowhere to run. The XM 25 is the first truly revolutionary small arms technology the Army has developed in almost half a century. By the way, the Army leadership canceled the XM 25 program last week.

The Army’s Acquisition Community wasn’t able to select something as simple as a pistol. After eight years and millions of dollars the only product they produced was a 400-page written “Request for Proposal” for an off the shelf commercial pistol. It took an enraged Chairman of this Committee and weekly interventions by the Army Chief of Staff to force the acquisition bureaucrats to pick the German made Sig Sauer pistol and get on with buying it for our Soldiers.

The most horrific story has to be the one about the rifle. During my 35 years in the Army, it became clear to me that from Hamburger Hill to the streets of Baghdad that the American penchant for arming troops with lousy rifles has been responsible for a staggering number of unnecessary deaths. In wars fought since World War II, the vast majority of men and women in uniform have not engaged in the intimate act of killing. Their work is much the same as their civilian counterparts’. It is the infantryman’s job to intentionally seek out and kill the enemy, at the risk of violent death. The Army and Marine Corps infantry, joined by a very small band of Special Operations forces, comprises roughly 50,000 soldiers, some 4 percent of uniformed Defense Department employees. During World War II, 70 percent of all soldiers killed at the hands of the enemy were infantry. In the wars since, that proportion has grown to about 80 percent. These are the (mostly) men whose survival depends on their rifles and ammunition.

In combat, an infantryman lives an animal’s life. The primal laws of tooth and fang determine whether he will live or die. Killing is quick. Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq reinforces the lesson that there is no such thing in small?arms combat as a fair fight. Infantrymen advance into the killing zone grimy, tired, confused, hungry, and scared. Their equipment is dirty, dented, or worn. They die on patrol from ambushes, from sniper attacks, from booby traps and improvised explosive devices. They may have only a split second to lift, aim, and pull the trigger before the enemy fires. Survival depends on the ability to deliver more killing power at longer ranges and with greater precision than the enemy.

Any lost edge, however small, means death. A jammed weapon, an enemy too swift and elusive to be engaged with aimed fire, an enemy out of range yet capable of delivering a larger volume of return fire—any of these cancel out all the wonderfully superior and expensive American air- and sea-based weapons that may be fired in support of ground troops. There’s also a moral dimension as well. An infantryman who perceives that his weapon is inferior loses confidence in the close fight and might well hold back fearing that his opponent can kill him at greater range and with more precision. A soldier in basic training is told that his rifle is his best friend and his ticket home. If the lives of so many depend on a rifle why can’t the richest country in the world give it to them?

The answer is both complex and simple. The M4, the standard carbine in use by the infantry today, is a lighter version of the M16 rifle that killed so many of the soldiers who carried it in Vietnam. (The M16 is still also in wide use today.) In the early morning of July 13, 2008, nine infantrymen died fighting off a Taliban attack at a combat outpost near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Some of the soldiers present later reported that in the midst of battle their rifles overheated and jammed. The Wanat story is reminiscent of experiences in Vietnam: in fact, other than a few cosmetic changes, the rifles from both wars are virtually the same. And the M4’s shorter barrel makes it less effective at long ranges than the older M16, an especially serious disadvantage in modern combat, which is increasingly taking place over long ranges.

The M16 started out as a stroke of genius by one of the world’s most famous firearms designers. In the 1950s, an engineer named Eugene Stoner used space age materials to improve the Army’s then standard infantry rifle, the M14. The 5.56mm cartridge Stoner chose for his rifle was a modification not of the M14’s cartridge but of a commercial Remington rifle cartridge that had been designed to kill small varmints. His invention, the AR15, was light, handy, and capable of controlled automatic fire. It outclassed the heavier, harder recoiling M14. Yet the Army was again reluctant to change. As James Fallows observed in 1981, it took the “strong support” of President Kennedy and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to make the Army consider breaking its love affair with the large caliber M14. In 1963, it slowly began adopting Stoner’s invention.

The “militarized” adaptation of the AR15 was the M16. Militarization—more than 100 proposed alterations to supposedly make the rifle combat ready—ruined the first batch to arrive at the front lines, and the cost in dead soldiers was horrific. A propellant ordered by the Army left a powder residue that clogged the rifle. Finely machined parts made the M16 a “maintenance queen” that required constant cleaning in the moisture, dust, and mud of Vietnam. In time, the Army improved the weapon—but not before many U.S. troops died.

Not all the problems with the M16 can be blamed on the Army. Buried in the M16’s, and now the M4’s, operating system is a flaw that no amount of militarizing and tinkering has ever erased. Stoner’s gun cycles cartridges from the magazine into the chamber using gas pressure vented off as the bullet passes through the barrel. Gases traveling down a very narrow aluminum tube produce an intense “puff” that throws the bolt assembly to the rear, making the bolt assembly a freely moving object in the body of the rifle. Any dust or dirt or residue from the cartridge might cause the bolt assembly, and thus the rifle, to jam.

In contrast, the Soviet AK-47 (and most other western designed assault rifles) cycle rounds using a solid operating rod attached to the bolt assembly. The gas action of the AK-47 throws the rod and the bolt assembly back as one unit, and the solid attachment means that mud or dust will not prevent the gun from functioning. Fearing the deadly consequences of a “failure to feed” in a fight, some top?tier Special Operations units like Delta Force and SEAL Team Six use a more modern and effective rifle with a more reliable operating rod mechanism. But front line Army and Marine riflemen still fire weapons much more likely to jam than the AK-47. Failure to feed affects every aspect of a fight. A Russian infantryman can fire about 140 rounds a minute without stopping. The M4 fires at roughly half that rate. Today it still jams after overheating and in dusty field conditions, just like in close combat. In the open terrain of Afghanistan, the M4 is badly out ranged by Taliban weapons manufactured before the First World War.

Sadly, until very recently the Army has done all it could to cover up the poor performance of the M 4. After my article “Gun Trouble” appeared in January’s Atlantic Magazine Army Public Affairs responded that the weapon was fine, as good as it could be. Then Rowan Scarborough of the Washington Times revealed a few months later that the M-4 was undergoing over 140 improvements. So, Rowan asked: “why, if the gun was so perfect in January, was it necessary to rebuild it a few months later?” Remember we aren’t talking about stealth, encryption or lines of code here. There are no interoperability and integration issues. Nothing is hidden deeply in Area 51. It’s a seven-pound piece of plastic and steel.

What should a next generation, all purpose infantry rifle look like? It should be modular. Multiple weapons can now be assembled from a single chassis. A squad member can customize his weapon by attaching different barrels, buttstocks, forearms, feed systems, and accessories to make, say, a light machine gun, a carbine, a rifle, or an infantry automatic rifle.

The military must change the caliber and cartridge of the guns it gives infantry soldiers. Stoner’s little 5.56mm cartridge was ideal for softening the recoil of World War II infantry calibers in order to allow fully automatic fire. But today’s cartridge is simply too small for modern combat. Its lack of mass limits its range to less than 400 meters. The civilian version of the 5.56?mm bullet was designed as a “varmint killer” and six states prohibit its use for deer hunting because it is not lethal enough to ensure a quick kill. The optimum caliber for tomorrow’s rifle is between 6.5 and 7 millimeters. The cartridge could be made almost as light as the older brass cased 5.56mm by using a plastic shell casing, which is now in final development by the Marine Corps.

The Army can achieve an infantry version of stealth by attaching newly developed sound suppressors to every rifle. Instead of merely muffling the sound of firing by trapping gases, this new technology redirects the firing gases forward, capturing most of the blast and flash well inside the muzzle. Of course, an enemy under fire would hear the muted sounds of an engagement. But much as with other stealth technology, the enemy soldier would be at a decisive disadvantage in trying to determine the exact location of the weapons firing at him.

Computer miniaturization now allows precision to be squeezed into a rifle sight. All an infantryman using a rifle equipped with a new model sight need do is place a red dot on his target and push a button at the front of his trigger guard; a computer on his rifle will take into account data like range and “lead angle” to compensate for the movement of his target, and then automatically fire when the hit is guaranteed. This rifle sight can “see” the enemy soldier day or night at ranges well beyond 600 meters. An enemy caught in that sight will die long before he could know he was seen, much less before he could effectively return fire.

But infantrymen today do not use rifles equipped with these new sights. Hunters do. In fact, new rifles and ammunition are readily available. They are made by many manufacturers—civilian gun makers and foreign military suppliers that equip the most?elite Special Operations units. Unlike conventional infantry units, top tier Special Operations units are virtually unrestricted by cumbersome acquisition protocols, and have had ample funding and a free hand to solicit new gun designs from private industry.

These units test new guns in combat, often with dramatic results: greater precision, greater reliability, greater killing power.

The Army has argued that, in an era of declining resources, a new rifle will cost more than $2 billion. But let’s say the Army and Marine Corps buy new rifles only for those who will use them most, namely the infantry. The cost, for about 100,000 infantrymen at $1,000 each, is then reduced to roughly $100 million, less than that of a single F?35 fighter jet. The Army and the Marine Corps can keep the current stocks of M4s and M16s in reserve for use by non?infantry personnel in the unlikely event that they find themselves in combat.

What to Do…

There is some good news in this doleful saga. Since 911 the M4 has been marginally effective against poorly equipped and armed insurgents like al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban. But reports about the fighting effectiveness of Putin’s well equipped little green men is disturbing. The Russians have spent their defense rubles wisely investing in a new family of assault rifles and the new Ratnick soldier systems that include a new soldier suite for protection, small arms and communications. Putin’s philosophy is to spend money only on units he needs to advance his national security aims: Spetnaz, GRU, naval infantry, airborne infantry and special armored units.

The Army now realizes that the varmint gun can’t defeat Russian body armor and is easily outranged by the latest Russian small arms. Senior leaders are now calling for the adoption of a “middle caliber” bullet and a new rifle to shoot it. It’s about time. The problem is that the Army’s turgid acquisition gurus want seven years to develop the new rifle.

Mr. Chairman, seven years is too long. With your help, we can develop and field the rifle our Soldiers and Marines deserve in about a year. Here is what we should do:

For the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, we request that you authorize 100 Million dollars to support an open competition to development a new family of dominant small arms. This single authorization should expire in a year. The effort should be run and overseen by ground combat arms officers and Non-Commissioned Officers. The Executive for managing this effort should be a consortium of the Ground Service Chiefs and the Commander, Special Operations Command. No acquisition agencies from any service should be involved in executive decision making or the management of the competition.

Competition will be open to anyone, small business, big business, foreign, domestic or even clever individuals. After one year the consortium leadership will conduct the shoot- off. The shoot off will be open to all services, the media and congress and anyone from the public who is interested. Results will be scored and posted daily on a web site.

The new rifle requirements document will be one page. It will speculate only six characteristics:

· First the rifle must be modular capable of being converted in the field to a carbine, rifle, machine gun or sniper rifle.

· Second, it will fire an intermediate caliber bullet probably a military version of the venerable Remington 270.

· Third, the rifle will be suppressed. A muzzle suppressor greatly reduces a rifle’s report and in the confusion of a close fight a quieter rifle gives a decided advantage.

· Fourth, the new rifle will use a solid recoiling action like most first-rate assault rifles.

· Fifth, the rifle should have a snap on digital sight capable of killing reliably to a range in excess of 1,000 meters.

· Sixth, the rifle should be able to fire ammunition in a polymer casing. Polymer rounds weigh 30% less than brass cartridge casings.

A desirable feature would be an attachment to allow the rifle to fire belted ammunition.

The winner would be awarded about 100 million dollars to manufacture the first 100,000 rifles, enough to equip all close combat small units in the Army and Marine Corps as well as those who fight close to the infantry to include Sappers, Fire Support Teams, and intelligence specialists. The rest of the Army and Marine Corps will do just fine with the M-4…for now.

I am not alone in calling for a significant reform of our small arms systems. Many very senior combat veterans share my passion. One in particular comes to mind. This from an often-quoted note to a friend written in 2009:

Yesterday I was at Walter Reed and among others spoke at some length with a fine young Marine infantry officer, Lt David Borden, who lost a leg in Ramadi to a suicide bomber. He lost a leg along with other serious wounds, blast killed one of his lads, wounded others. Most notably, he emptied a magazine into the man charging them, at close range, even as his fellow Marines riddled him as well at close range. Certainly, the guy was on drugs, but the bottom line was that our assault rifle did not have the stopping power to put the enemy down on first, second, third…fifteenth etc. rounds to the body…

Once the problem is well defined (we are using a rifle whose caliber is illegal for shooting small deer in nearly all states due to its lack of killing power), we will move swiftly to the solution. While I believe, the solution is 6.8mm, I’m open to whatever will work. Physics says that the best advances in bullet technology will not give us the increased stopping power/energy of the 5.56, since any improved 5.56 ammunition could only be more effective if adopted at 6.8mm or other heavier round.

The sender of the message was General James Mattis.

My grandson is ten and I’m very proud of him. He tells me he wants to be a Soldier someday. If we leave the Army’s Acquisition bureaucracy in charge of developing our next generation of small arms I’m fearful that he will be walking point some day with the same weapon that failed my Soldiers so tragically fifty years ago in Vietnam.
Please don’t allow that to happen.

[COURTESY: LTC Lewis Higinbotham, USA (Ret) and passed to me by James D]

Wolverine Worldwide Applauds Passage Of Defense Bill Directing Armed Services To Procure US Made Athletic Footwear

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Yesterday marked final passage by the Senate of the 2017 NDAA which includes the language that will have military issue athletic footwear made in the United States. This is a HUGE win for the Berry Amendment, the warfighter, and the domestic industrial base. My congratulations to everyone who made this happen.

Saucony Now Producing Footwear in Michigan
Defense Department to Provide American-made Athletic Footwear to Troops

Rockford, Michigan, December 8, 2016 — Wolverine Worldwide (NYSE: WWW) today hailed the passage of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the defense bill that sets the policy and spending levels for the fiscal year. Included in the final version of the NDAA is language directing the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps to comply with the Berry Amendment and provide 100% American-made athletic footwear to recruits upon their initial entry to basic training. The Department of Defense has been providing a cash allowance to new service members for foreign-made athletic footwear. U.S. Marine recruits have been required to spend their own funds on these items.

Wolverine Worldwide is the parent company of Saucony, a manufacturer of high performance running shoes as well as of Bates footwear, the largest and most capable provider of combat boots, dress uniform and other footwear to the military. This legislation will positively impact footwear manufacturing in Michigan as well as the industrial base throughout the United States.

Members of the Michigan, Massachusetts, South Dakota and New Hampshire Congressional delegations, notably Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), Senator John Thune (R-SD), Representative Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Representative John Moolenaar (R-MI), Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD), Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) have strongly supported this provision. Their hard work and leadership during NDAA consideration has ensured that recruits will have access to high-quality, American-made athletic footwear for military training and will help expand manufacturing for footwear and related components throughout the United States.

“I thank those members of Congress who have worked to sustain domestic manufacturing and ensure our warfighters train in American-made footwear,” said Blake Krueger, Wolverine Worldwide’s chairman, chief executive officer and president. “Congressional support for American-made products for the Department of Defense clearly demonstrates an understanding of the importance of maintaining a critical industrial capability within our country and ensures that soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be provided with a choice of technically advanced, durable, American-made athletic shoes for use in basic training.”

Since 1941, the Berry Amendment has required the Department of Defense to purchase American-made and sourced clothing, textiles, foods, and other essential military items for our men and women in uniform. The purpose of the Berry Amendment is to ensure that the United States is able to maintain viable domestic industries to support the needs of the Armed Services.

Wolverine Worldwide recently expanded its manufacturing plant located in Big Rapids, Michigan and employs more than 600 people who proudly build a broad spectrum of footwear for the Department of Defense. Products manufactured in Big Rapids include combat boots for the service branches, mountain combat boots for Special Operations Forces, and military dress shoes. Wolverine is adding an advanced manufacturing line for Berry-compliant Saucony running shoes in preparation for the pursuit of government awards. The company is looking forward to expanding upon this American-made athletic footwear capability to serve the Department of Defense as well as commercial markets.

Saucony is a leading global performance running brand founded in Pennsylvania in 1898. The brand is known for its best-in-class design, innovation and performance technology. Saucony has recently expanded its technical research laboratory in Waltham, Massachusetts where the company performs material testing as well as biomechanical, physiological, and sensory analysis of runners.

For additional information, please visit, www.wolverineworldwide.com.

SilencerCo CEO Josh Waldron on the Hearing Protection Act

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

My fellow Americans,

Tuesday’s Republican election victory was a tremendous win for our Second Amendment rights and it also marked a significant increase in the potential for the Hearing Protection Act to become law and remove silencers from the NFA registry. SilencerCo has been and will continue to be a vocal supporter of the HPA and advocate for it to become a priority in the legislative agenda for 2017.

As a member of The Suppressed™, you’ve likely thought to yourself, “Why are silencers still an NFA item?” SilencerCo has not only wondered this ourselves, but along with partners such as the American Suppressor Association, we’ve taken steps to support the introduction of legislation to remove silencers from the list of NFA items.

On October 22, 2015 the Hearing Protection Act was introduced. This piece of legislation is aimed at removing silencers from the NFA and instead having their transfer go through a traditional ATF Form 4473 – the same way you would purchase a standard rifle or pistol.

What does this mean for you?

No $200 tax stamp
No excessive wait times
No NFA trusts
No fingerprint cards, passport photos, or Chief Law Enforcement Officer notification
A simple process, just like when you purchase most firearms through your dealer

Even though the House, Senate, and Presidency will be controlled by like-minded advocates for the Second Amendment, bills take time to become laws and citizens should not be taxed for trying to protect their hearing while exercising their Second Amendment rights. Between now and the passage of this bill, we encourage our customers to continue to support the industry and to take advantage of the following provision: The Hearing Protection Act also includes a provision for all people who purchase a silencer between the time the bill is introduced (October 22, 2015) until the day it passes – should you purchase a silencer during that time, you will receive a $200 tax credit to cover the cost of any new silencer tax stamps you pay for.

This bill was initially championed by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) as its primary sponsor and since then has had multiple co-sponsors. SilencerCo, Rep. Salmon, and all supporters of the bill realize that this is a long-term effort and will not be something that happens overnight. With the help of people like you – The Suppressed – we will gain momentum and educate both the general public and lawmakers as to the true nature of silencers.

If you haven’t already joined The Suppressed, click HERE to add your voice to the cause and write to your Congressmen and women and Senators to voice your support for the HPA as a legislative priority for 2017.


Josh Waldron
CEO, SilencerCo

HASC 2017 NDAA Markup Includes Requirement For Berry Compliant Athletic Footwear

Friday, April 29th, 2016

As you may know, DoD does a great job of adhering to the Berry Amendment, except when it comes to athletic footwear. While many look at the WWII-era law as protectionary, it was created to ensure a viable industrial base for textiles and other clothing, footwear and equipment items. The failure of DoD to follow Berry guidelines for athletic footwear is most apparent during Initial Entry Training where recruits are issued vouchers, which are traded for commercial running shoes at military exchanges.  As you can imagine, these shoes are made overseas.

For the past several years, Congress has been working with industry to offer viable American made alternatives to the military. The language in the National Defense Authorization Act has become more specific each year, and now hopefully, we’ll see this latest version become a part of the 2017 NDAA that the President signs into law later this year after it makes it through the rest of the hoops. Now, we’ve got both Saucony and New Balance offering Made in USA running shoes. Once this becomes law, I believe other brands will follow, bringing jobs back to the US.


Annual Department of Defense Funding Bill Includes Landmark Provision Requiring Department of Defense to Provide Berry Amendment Compliant Athletic Footwear to Recruits

Rockford, Mich., April 28, 2016 — Wolverine Worldwide (NYSE: WWW) today commended the House Armed Services Committee’s approval of legislation directing the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps to provide Berry Amendment compliant athletic footwear to service members upon their initial entry to the armed forces. Currently, the Department of Defense provides a cash allowance to members for the purchase of foreign-made athletic footwear. This important provision was included in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and led by Armed Services Committee member Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA.)

“I commend the House Armed Services Committee for this significant provision that will have a direct and positive impact on our ability to provide high quality, American-made athletic footwear to men and women upon their entry to the armed services,” said Blake Krueger, Wolverine Worldwide’s Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President. “Congresswoman Niki Tsongas has exhibited remarkable persistence in her support for American manufacturing and for the needs of American service members. We are greatly appreciative of the commitment demonstrated by Congresswoman Tsongas and the members of the Armed Services committee to support American jobs and maintain a strong footwear industrial base in the United States.”

Since 1941, the Berry Amendment has required the Department of Defense to only purchase American-made and sourced clothing, textiles, foods, and other essential military items for our men and women in uniform. Until today, athletic footwear was not included in the Amendment. The purpose of the Berry Amendment is to ensure the United States is able to maintain viable industries for key military items should conflict break out and disrupt supply lines. This legislation helps support manufacturing jobs and sustains the domestic industrial base that currently builds the combat boots and military dress shoes for the United States Armed Services.

With a longstanding partnership with the United States Department of Defense, Wolverine Worldwide operates a manufacturing plant located in Big Rapids, Mich. that employs more than 600 people who currently and proudly build a broad spectrum of Bates Footwear for the men and women of the United States military. Products manufactured in Big Rapids include combat boots for the service branches, mountain combat boots for Special Operations Forces, and military dress shoes.

Wolverine Worldwide has athletic footwear manufacturing capabilities in its Big Rapids facility through its Saucony brand. Saucony is a leading global performance running brand that was founded in the United States in 1898. The brand is known for its best-in-class design, innovation and performance technology. Saucony maintains and is presently expanding its technical research laboratory in Lexington, MA where the Company performs material testing as well as biomechanical, physiological and sensory analysis of runners. The athletic footwear capabilities of the Company’s Big Rapids facility are due to the creation and engineering of an advanced manufacturing line that can produce 100% Berry-compliant Saucony running shoes. The Company is looking forward to building American-made athletic shoes for American troops as a result of this critical amendment included in the NDAA.

Support the Hearing Protection Act

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

As SIG SAUER’s John Hollister says, “Do it for the children.”  The Hearing Protection Act of 2015 (H.R. 3799) would remove suppressors from the National Firearms Act.

Let your voice be heard, but not your firearms.


American Knife & Tool Institute Increases Lobbying Efforts to Ensure Protection of Lawful Knife Owners

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Organization to Focus on Federal and State Efforts Including the Knife Owners’ Protection Act, Repeal of Restrictions on Auto-Open Knives, and Preemption

Las Vegas, NV – January 19, 2016 – The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) today announced its plans to increase its lobbying efforts in order to prompt reform of knife laws in 2016.

To accomplish this reform, AKTI has brought on ADS Ventures, a Boston, MA and Washington, DC-based government and public affairs firm with a practice specializing in defense and national security issues. The team, headed by Liesl Grebenstein and supported by Savannah Kelleher, has been working with AKTI for several years, but the new contract will enhance efforts focused on federal efforts to pass the Knife Owners’ Protection Act (KOPA), and state efforts to ease restrictions on auto-open knives, as well as preemption. The legislative reform agenda will ensure the protection of knife owners’ Constitutional rights.

“AKTI has an aggressive legislative reform agenda in 2016,” said CJ Buck, AKTI’s Board President. “We are confident that through AKTI’s leadership, and the work of ADS Ventures, it will be a successful year for the organization as we further our mission to ensure your right to own, carry, and use knives and edged tools.”

For nearly 20 years, AKTI has served as the go-to resource for knife owners looking to ensure that they comply with all local, state, and federal laws related to knives. One of the biggest complaints and points of confusion AKTI hears about from lawful knife owners involves the patchwork laws related to the ownership and possession of knives. While citizens are making every effort to comply with patchwork state and local laws, it has become clear that there is the need for comprehensive reform.

“AKTI and its members have been successful in clarifying and correcting poorly conceived and ambiguous legislation and educating legislators on knife issues on behalf of all knife owners,” said David Fee, AKTI’s Legislative Chair. “We support reasonable, responsible legislation and measured non-partisan efforts to resolve issues. We’re excited to see how we can further this objective in this and coming years.”

More about AKTI

The American Knife & Tool Institute (AKTI) is a non-profit organization (501(c)6) representing all segments of the knife industry and all knife users. Formed in true grassroots fashion by concerned industry leaders after considerable discussion with individual knifemakers, knife magazine publishers, and a broad section of the knife community, AKTI has been the reasonable and responsible voice of the knife community since 1998. AKTI’s mission is to ensure that Americans will always be able to make, buy, sell, own, carry and use knives and edged tools. To learn more, please visit www.akti.org.