The Government Accountability Office just announced that it would be sustaining a protest filed by Oregon-based optics manufacturer Leupold & Stevens regarding a contract modification tendered by Navy Surface Warfare Center Crane.

Crane has served for years as US Special Operations Commands’ go-to procurement and development center for small arms and warfighter-worn accessories.

The protest, formalized and filed in August of this year, was based on a contract between Crane and Sig Sauer awarded in October 2018 revolving around Sig’s Squad-Variable Powered Scope (Second Focal Plane) offering — officially known as the SU-293/PVS — which Crane decided to pick up for SOCOM’s special operators.

Designed to run with SOCOM’s vast arsenal of M4 carbines, the SU-293/PVS, essentially a Sig TANGO6, would maximize the effective range of the rifle up to 600 meters.

The SU-293/PVS would have been used in tandem with SOCOM's arsenal of M4 carbines (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)
The SU-293/PVS would have been used in tandem with SOCOM's arsenal of M4 carbines (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)

In the protest, Leupold asserted that Crane had improperly modified its contract with Sig to include a new reticle — an etched and illuminated Tremor8 instead of the wire reticle the SU-293/PVS was originally manufactured with.

The overall modification beefed up the original S-VPS(SFP) contract from a $12.1 million order with a further $9.4 million, leading Leupold to file a protest that Crane should have kickstarted a new contest instead of continuing with the contract, and in failing to do so, the SOCOM procurement house violated the rules which surrounded the program.

According to the GAO’s website, the GAO “generally sustains protests where it determines that the contracting agency violated procurement statutes or regulations." The site goes on to say that in the event of a sustained protest, the office recommends that the protestor be reimbursed legal, consultation, and filing fees to a point.

Soldier Systems Daily reports that while Leupold has been vindicated and Crane has now been forced to withdraw the modification, they won’t be awarded anything in return. However, this does leave Crane and Sig in an interesting situation, as the latter will be unable to pay the former the $9.4 million modification for the new reticles.

As a result, the path ahead for the SU-293/PVS remains unclear.

Sig could potentially offer to eat the cost of the modification from the wire reticle to the Tremor8, and include the latter in the scopes they deliver as long as the original S-VPS(SFP) contract is left intact. Conversely, Crane could simply cut the contract and hold a new contest that factors in the new reticle they desire.