Assessment 2020 of U.S. Army Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle AMPV program

The U.S. Army’s AMPV is the replacement to the M113 family of vehicles at the brigade level and below. The AMPV is expected to replace the M113 in five mission roles: general-purpose, medical evacuation, medical treatment, mortar carrier, and mission command. The Army determined that the development of the AMPV is necessary due to mobility, survivability, and force protection deficiencies identified with the M113, as well as space weight, power, and cooling limitations that prevent the incorporation of future technologies.
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Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment "Dark Horse," 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, drive through a low-water crossing in the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) after completing field testing on Fort Hood, Texas Sept. 24, 2018 (Picture source: Maj. Carson Petry, 1st CAV)

The analysis hereunder is extracted from the Defense Acquisitions Annual Assessment, Report to Congressional Committees, dated June 2020. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) currently plans to invest over $1.8 trillion to acquire new major weapon systems such as aircraft, ships, and satellites. At the same time, the Department is investing billions more in information technology (IT) systems and capabilities that it expects to either prototype or field rapidly through a new middle-tier acquisition pathway.

In recent years, Congress enacted reforms that could help streamline acquisition oversight and deliver capabilities faster. In January 2020, in part to improve the speed of the acquisition system, DOD reissued its foundational acquisition guidance. The new guidance includes six acquisition pathways based on the characteristics and risk profile of the system being acquired, including three that relate to the three types of programs GAO (Government Accountability Office) reviewed: 1) major capability acquisition, used to acquire major defense acquisition programs (MDAP); 2) middle-tier acquisition (MTA), used for rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts; and 3) defense business systems, used to acquire certain major IT programs.

Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV) program essentials

Milestone decision authority: Army. Program office: Warren, MI. Prime contractor: BAE Systems Land and Armaments, LP. Contract type: CPIF/FPI (design, integration, and low-rate initial production) Next major milestone: Start of operational testing (February 2021).

The AMPV program entered system development in December 2014 with mature critical technologies. The program has also released over 90 percent of expected design drawings to manufacturing, which indicates a stable design. However, the overall number of drawings has fluctuated due to vehicle configuration changes and testing results.

Although the AMPV entered low-rate initial production in January 2019, the program’s manufacturing readiness level does not indicate that its production processes are in statistical control. While DOD guidance does not require statistical control of production processes until the full-rate production decision, our prior work found that this DOD standard falls short of industry best practices. Further, the program office did not demonstrate its critical manufacturing processes on a pilot production line, which program officials attributed to the contractor’s need to address manufacturing process deficiencies discovered during the production of prototype AMPV units. However, program officials stated pre-production hulls were used to validate new weld processes and serve as pilots for fabrication.

The contractor started the fabrication of low-rate initial production vehicles in March 2019 after spending nearly a year addressing manufacturing challenges experienced during prototype production. These challenges—such as parts shortages and changes to engineering drawings—resulted in late prototype deliveries. To improve manufacturing timeliness and quality, the contractor implemented new manufacturing processes, such as robotic welding. However, the Defense Contract Management Agency reported that the contractor has yet to fully validate these processes due to welding challenges and quality problems with supplier parts. As a result, the vehicle production schedule has been delayed by 4 to 6 months.

Continued vehicle delivery delays beyond those anticipated could affect the start of initial operational test and evaluation, currently planned for February 2021. While program officials expect the contractor to deliver low-rate initial production vehicles late due to lingering manufacturing challenges, they believe a sufficient schedule margin exists prior to the start of operational testing to accommodate the late production vehicles. However, until the program demonstrates that its critical manufacturing processes are in statistical control, there is an increased risk that the design may not be producible at the program’s cost, schedule, and quality targets.

Software and cybersecurity

The AMPV program reported it is using an incremental approach to develop software for vehicle control, communications, and other software areas. However, the program delivers software to testers—not users—in 10- to 12-month increments. Office of Management and Budget and DOD guidance both call for regular incremental deliveries to users. We previously reported that involving users in the early stages and obtaining frequent feedback helps reduce risk and is critical to software development success. Program officials reported that the program has no significant software-related issues. Initial cybersecurity testing revealed system vulnerabilities, and the program is planning future testing to include the mitigation of identified vulnerabilities. The program is scheduled to complete an evaluation of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in 2021.

Other program issues

The Army’s updated cost position for the program reflected procurement cost growth of nearly 10 percent since the program’s first full estimate. This cost position, prepared for entry into low-rate production, was based on the independent cost estimate prepared by the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, which noted concerns with the contractor’s manufacturing capacity to meet expected production vehicle delivery dates. The contractor expects system development to continue through 2021—more than 1 year later than planned—largely due to delays in developing logistics documentation such as operator technical manuals. This delay increases the risk that the program may not fully demonstrate vehicle supportability and training in an operational environment prior to entering full-rate production, which is also planned for October 2021.

Program office comments

We provided a draft of this assessment to the program office for review and comment. The program office provided technical comments, which we incorporated where appropriate. The program office stated that the AMPV remains within cost, schedule, and performance baselines, taking into account user-requested design upgrades and added European Deterrence Initiative vehicles, among other things. It also stated that the development contract extension accommodates these design upgrades as well as potential design changes from further testing. The program office said that it adjusted test schedules without compromising requirements for the full-rate production decision, including its plans to meet DOD manufacturing readiness level guidance at that decision point. The office also stated that it used pre-production hulls to validate weld processes and met the DOD manufacturing readiness level guidance for its initial production start. The program office noted major contractor process improvements and lessons learned that have led to improved production metrics such as fewer defects.