Posted by: Shaun | June 19, 2008

Boeing wins tanker protest bid

It appears the epic struggle to decide who will supply the U.S. Air Force with a new aerial refueling tanker is destined to continue now that the Government Accountablility Office (GAO) has upheld Boeing’s protest [Press Release PDF] against competitor Northrop-Grumman and its European partner, EADS.  According to the GAO’s statement:

“Our review of the record led us to conclude that the Air Force had made a number of
significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close
competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman.  We therefore sustained
Boeing’s protest,” said Michael R. Golden, the GAO’s managing associate general
counsel for procurement law.  “We also denied a number of Boeing’s challenges to
the award to Northrop Grumman, because we found that the record did not provide
us with a basis to conclude that the agency had violated the legal requirements with
respect to those challenges.”

Essentially, the government watch dog found that the Air Force ignored or improperly applied a number of standards from its original solicitation for the KC-X tanker project.  The GAO has recommended that the Air Force enter into new negotiations with the two aerospace companies as a prelude to re-evaluating their respective bids.

It is somewhat heartening that this dispute seems to have been settled on the merits and within the letter of the law.  With Northrup-Grumman originally changing the rules to allow consideration of its larger design based on the Airbus A-330 and Boeing using its Washington state Congressional connections to pressure the military to change its mind after losing the bid, I find it remarkable that this entire process did not degenerate into a political grudge match with each company’s legislative allies using their influence to try to bring Pentagon pork home to their constituents.  Perhaps reason will prevail.  But then, there’s still a long path to tread and elections coming in November…

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