"Tick tock, Clarice."

Wouldn't it be just poetic if the officer in charge of awarding three contracts to build the next-gen Humvee really was named "Clarice?" But the movies aren't real life, and life rarely works out as perfectly as in the cinema. In fact, based on the multiple delays in the Pentagon's Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, I'd wager the person in charge is more likely named Moe. Or Larry or Curly.

For five long months, we've been awaiting word of who would win the JLTV competition. Most media outlets estimate the contract awards to be around $20 billion. Depending on who you ask, it's supposed to result in a stronger, faster Humvee that will enter military service in 2013. Problem is, after the initial postponement in June, and then the repeat yesterday, it seems the military just can't decide who's going to build the darn thing. But that's not for a lack of volunteers.

Who wants to be a $70-billionaire?
Everybody wants a piece of the JLTV pie, including quite a few companies whose names you might not ordinarily associate with the concept of ground warfare: Boeing (NYSE:BA), for example, as well as Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC) and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT). To make their claims more credible, though, these three had the good sense to team up with experts on the ground -- Textron (NYSE:TXT), Oshkosh (NYSE:OSK), and Armor Holdings, respectively.

Place your bets ...
Two of these three teams -- Northrop/Oshkosh and Lockheed/AH -- rank among the three odds-on favorites according to most any industry analyst you could name. (The third likely winner being General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) and its partner, ringer-Humvee maker AM General.) Meanwhile, on the outside looking in are the reputed also-rans: Force Protection, Navistar, and Raytheon (NYSE:RTN), each with their own coterie of co-bidders.

... and take your chances
For what it's worth, I agree with the consensus that General D's team will make it to the winners' circle. And while I wouldn't have guessed it initially, Northrop's late entry into the competition, combined with the suspiciously simultaneous postponement of the award date, tells me Northrop-Oshkosh has also probably sealed the deal. As for the third winner, though, I continue to think you should keep your eye on Navistar. It's been winning the bulk of MRAP contracts lately, and I wouldn't bet against it.

If I were allowed to bet at all at this point -- which in compliance with The Motley Fool's disclosure policy, I am not. As for those who are still able, your bets come due later this week. Tick-tock.

Learn everything you ever wanted to know (and maybe even a little bit that you didn't) about the JLTV program in: