Chemical and Biological Defense:

DOD's Evaluation of Improved Garment Materials

NSIAD-98-214: Published: Aug 18, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 1998.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of Defense's (DOD) research and development programs for improved chemical defense garment materials for U.S. armed forces, focusing on whether DOD: (1) provided sufficient notice to industry of the government's interest in identifying improved chemical defense materials; (2) provided industry sufficient opportunity to participate in the programs; (3) changed requirements in the transition of the Marine Corps Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (MCLIST) program to the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) program; and (4) responded to a congressional reporting requirement concerning sources of supply for the military's chemical defense materials.

GAO noted that: (1) because the MCLIST program and the Army's exploratory development efforts--which ultimately became the JSLIST program--were research and development activities, they were not subject to the same procedural requirements that apply to acquisition programs; (2) in this research and development context, DOD provided sufficient notice to industry of its interest in improved chemical defense materials through market research, direct industry contacts, ongoing exploratory development projects, and Broad Agency Announcement notices published in the Commerce Business Daily; (3) DOD provided industry an adequate opportunity to participate in the research and development programs; (4) on the basis of the notice DOD provided to industry, a total of 57 material combinations, submitted by 13 companies, were evaluated in JSLIST after initial testing in MCLIST and the Army demonstration; (5) however, reliance on informal communications resulted in companies receiving different information about submission deadlines to MCLIST and the Army programs; (6) due in part to the lack of formal communications regarding deadlines of material submissions, the complainant company did not get an improved material into JSLIST for evaluation; (7) the complainant company, which already had one material in the MCLIST demonstration, submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Marine Corps for an improved chemical defense material after entry into MCLIST was closed; (8) the Marine Corps rejected the proposal in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation because the material duplicated an existing Marine Corps effort; (9) GAO could not determine whether the outcome of JSLIST would have differed if this material had been assessed; (10) the basic requirements for a lightweight, launderable, chemical protective garment did not change in the transition from MCLIST to JSLIST; (11) however, the individual military services added certain mission-specific requirements under JSLIST; (12) DOD overlooked the congressional reporting requirement in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 conference report; and (13) a May 1998 addendum to DOD's February 1998 Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Defense Annual report to Congress stated that the preplanned product improvement program might identify additional sources of supply to meet those requirements that were not achieved in the JSLIST program.

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