What is the “TDP?”

Since the topic is highly controversial at times, here’s a pretty simple description:

MIL-C-70559 is the military specification for the M4, which incorporates Colt’s technical data package (“TDP”). The M4 TDP consists of a series of prints and geometries (dimensions), a system of know-how, operation sheets, quality inspection methods and access to the master list of specifications and standards that comply with the requirements in Colt’s contract with the U.S. military. The TDP outlines the manufacturing process, materials, tolerances, assembly, finishes, proof testing and dimensions needed to manufacture the weapon. The military specifications (“milspecs”) and military standards (“milstds”) into which Colt’s TDP has been incorporated consist of more than two hundred extremely rigorous standards covering inspection, tolerances, targeting, endurance and interchangeability of parts.

Quality-assurance and conformance with milspecs and milstds are maintained by an onsite U.S. government inspector who keeps an office at Colt’s factory and by a number of Colt’s own inspectors. In the last two years, Colt has fired more than 300,000 rounds of ammunition in testing the carbine and has not experienced a single malfunction.

The M4-carbine TDP is proprietary to Colt, and the U.S. government has designated Colt its “sole source” supplier of M4 carbines. Under the M4 Addendum, the U.S. government does not have the right to procure the M4 carbine on a competitive basis.

Under the M4 Addendum, only Colt can manufacture M4 carbines, except in very limited circumstances and subject to a royalty payment to Colt. The M4 Addendum allows other qualified vendors to supply non-critical parts for the M4 carbine, but only if they are using Colt’s TDP. Critical items include the upper and lower receivers, the hand guard, barrels and other components of the M4 carbine.

In 1999 FN Manufacturing, Inc. (“FNMI”), a small-arms manufacturer that supplies M16 rifles to the U.S. government, challenged the government’s decision to proceed with a sole-source procurement of M4 carbines from Colt. On August 9, 1999 the U.S. Court of Federal Claims upheld the legality of the M4 Addendum, and FNMI’s challenge was dismissed.




Filed under Firearms

4 responses to “What is the “TDP?”

  1. As of July 1, 2009, the sole-source clause of the “M4 Addendum” expired. The Army now has the right to use the M4 TDP to second source production, as an extension of the 1967 licensing agreement for the M16. Until the end of calender year 2037, the Army will have to pay 5% in royalties to Colt for every M4 procured from second sources.

    The TDP remains Colt proprietary data, and any second source M4 contractor will be required to sign non-disclosure agreements just as they do for the M16. The non-disclosure/non-use agreements for accessing the TDP will forbid the other companies from using Colt’s proprietary data for commercial sales. Once their military contract ends, the company will be required to be destroy all of the TDP information provided to them.

    The following link provides the US Army’s standard non-disclosure/non-use agreement for contractors accessing the M16 TDP:


  2. MarkM

    The Army Times quotes Col. Tamilio of the Improved Carbine competition as saying (I paraphrase:) “We’re not getting in that boat again.”

    The final winner of the Improved competition will be required to sell the TDP so that two other suppliers can make it to expand the industrial base. Since that is already an arguably moot point, and Colt may still keep the M4 as the contracted weapon, will they then be required to sell it? That’s not entirely clear yet.

  3. I doubt that the winner will be required to give up -all- rights to their TDP. They’ll just be required to license it to the government for multi-source production. The non-disclosure/no commercial use clauses will be still be part of anyone receiving the TDP.

    Since July 1, 2009, the government has had the right to second-source production of the M4 carbine any time they want. They obviously didn’t see any reason to rush things since Colt’s current M4 contract runs out at the end of this year with deliveries scheduled through the end of November 2011.

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