USAF Booted From Selection Role
ANN REALTIME UPDATE
07.09.08 1715 EDT: More details have emerged regarding the
Department of Defense's call that the US Air Force KC-X contract be
sent to rebid. In a stunning development, the DoD has stripped
decision-making authority on the bid from the USAF.
Replacing the Air Force as the "source selection authority" is
John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition,
technology and logistics. He is tasked with appointing an advisory
committee to oversee the selection of a bidder to supply the
modified commercial aircraft fleet that will phase out the current
KC-135 tankers, which are 47 years old, on average.
"Industry, Congress and the American people all must have
confidence in the integrity of this acquisition process," Gates
said at a Pentagon news conference. "I believe the revised process
will result in the best tanker for the Air Force at the best price
for the American taxpayer."
1415 EDT: Here we go again. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates announced Wednesday the US Air Force will once again
reopen bidding on a stalled multibillion-dollar contract to replace
its aging fleet of KC-135 aerial tankers with modern aircraft.
The decision adds a new, sad chapter to a tortured story that
started over five years ago, when the Air Force pulled its original
contract award to Boeing after it became known one Pentagon
official in charge of the procurement process, Darleen Druyun,
hopped the fence to go to work at Boeing even as the final "i's"
were being dotted on the deal to give the contract to the
As ANN reported last month, the Government
Accountability Office -- acting on a protest filed by Boeing, upon
losing the previous KC-X contract bid in February to a partnership
between Northrop Grumman and European aerospace consortium EADS --
determined the Air Force took its level of bungling to new heights
in awarding an initial $40 billion contract to a plane based on the
Specifically, the GAO said the Air Force selection process was
"undermined by a number of prejudicial errors that call into
question the Air Force's decision" to give the contract to
In addition to miscalculating maintenance costs, failing to
follow its own evaluation process, and failing to adhere to their
own self-aggrandizing statements that KC-X was an "incredibly open
and transparent" process, was the discovery the Air Force appeared
to give outright preferential treatment in the bidding process to
In one case, USAF officials reportedly told Boeing it had met a
set of objectives... but later said it had not, after discussions
had already closed. Conversely, the Air Force told Northrop about
areas its bid had fallen short on, then gave the company time to
alter its proposal.
Those revelations cast doubt on the fairness of the Air Force's
bidding process, and fed rumors of possible political pressure to
hand the contract to the European team. That may bode ill for
current Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who as a
member of the Senate Armed Services Committee led the charge to
pull the tanker contract from Boeing after the Druyun scandal came
The latest news casts some doubt on whether Northrop/EADS will
bother to resubmit a bid. Since the original contract bidding
process began, several European and Middle Eastern countries have
selected the KC-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport -- on which the
KC-45A is heavily based -- over Boeing's smaller, older KC-767.
"EADs feels very raw over this," said Alexandra Ashbourne, who
heads Ashbourne Strategic Consulting in London, an aerospace
analysis firm. "There was a lot of effort expended for no return.
You cannot underestimate how raw and burnt they feel as a result of
More to follow...