Officials Want To Avoid Third Protest Of Contentious Deal
'Tis the season, it seems, to defer
ruling on lucrative US Air Force procurement contracts. Hot on the
heels of last week's surprise decision by the Pentagon to put off
determining a winner in the KC-X aerial tanker competition, comes
word that the Defense Department may also delay ruling on the
oft-contested Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR-X) contract.
The Air Force is currently scheduled to determine a winner in
CSAR-X sometime this fall... but John Young, the DoD's top weapons
buyer, told The Wall Street Journal that decision may be deferred
until 2009, for fear the losing bidders would be able to
successfully protest the deal.
Again. For what would be the third time. "If we think there's
risk there, it won't go forward," Young said, though he did add he
did not see any reason why the current contract process wouldn't
stand up to protests.
In what the Air Force had originally hoped would showcase the
branch's procurement prowess, CSAR-X has instead turned into
something more resembling "The Three Stooges Attempt To Buy A
As ANN reported, the Air Force named Boeing's
HH-47 -- a variant of the erstwhile Chinook -- as the winner of
CSAR-X in November 2006.
That determination was promptly protested by the losing bidders
Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin... and after some hemming and hawing,
the Air Force agreed to put CSAR-X up for rebid in March 2007, with
a planned ruling by the fall. However,
the USAF was forced to change its Request-For-Proposal once
again last November, after those companies took their
protests to the Government Accountability Office.
Lockheed is offering a variant of the AgustaWestland-sourced,
three-engined US101 (below) in CSAR-X, while Sikorsky brings to the
table its HH-92 (shown at bottom). Both companies maintain their
choices are more efficient than the larger, twin-rotor HH-47
Young says his team is pouring over the Air Force's RFP, to
ensure there are no shortcomings or loopholes that could be
"If we can assure the secretary of the Air Force and the
secretary of Defense that we believe the government has done its
work properly and should prevail in a protest, I think that award
will be made," Young said.
The $15 billion CSAR-X contract calls for the purchase of 141
new search-and-rescue helicopters, to replace aging HH-53 Pave