A Maryland-based armor manufacturer will now provide soft body armor to the U.S. Marine Corps, thanks to a 5-year, $42.7 million contract awarded Wednesday.
Hardwire LLC, located in Pocomoke City on the Eastern Shore, supplies protection supplies to law enforcement and other branches of the U.S. military. It was awarded the contract as part of a competitive procurement process by the Marines, which set aside a contract for a small business to supply them armor.
Matthew Kraeuter, Hardwire’s general counsel, said he was excited to receive the contract after Hardwire challenged and successfully appealed the contract going to a different manufacturer in Michigan, which Hardwire argued wasn’t actually a small business.
“It was a cool win from a personal and professional perspective, going up against these big companies,” said Kraeuter, who noted 13 companies initially applied for the contract.
When the Marine Corps awarded the soft armor contract to Central Lake Armor Express in Michigan a year ago, Kraeuter and Hardwire filed a protest to appeal the contract with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Hearings and Appeals.
Hardwire argued the Michigan manufacturer was actually associated with other, larger companies, and did not meet the small business requirement of employing fewer than 500 people.
The SBA’s Chicago area office denied Hardwire’s initial appeal request, but after the company requested to appeal again at the SBA Office of Hearings and Appeals, the decision was reversed.
In the second appeal request, a judge for the SBA found the Michigan company was associated with another, larger company, making it ineligible to bid on the contract.
Kraeuter said an SBA attorney told him it’s “pretty rare” the organization ever overturns a decision that had been ruled on at a lower level.
In terms of the armor itself, Kraeuter said Hardwire’s soft armor is 15% lighter than anything else on the market, but just as protective. He said this is because of Hardwire’s unique manufacturing process, which presses the armor material with millions of pounds of force, according to a press release.
“You never win a sailboat race by following everyone else,” Kraeuter said. “So we said, ‘let’s think about it and see if we can squeeze more stopping power out of the same material.’ ”
He said the armor is designed to protect Marines from handguns and shrapnel from explosions and that the soft armor goes along with hard-plated armor being provided to the Marine Corps from another company.
Along with the Marines, Hardwire supplies armor to law enforcement agencies nationwide, including the protective plating on police cars in New York City, Kraeuter said.
“It’s pretty awesome and fun when you go up to New York and knowing it’s what they’re using while putting their lives on the line and now overseas as well,” he said.