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Sat, Jun 02, 2007

Sikorsky Protests Latest CSAR-X Proposal From USAF

Air Force Complies With GAO Findings, But Will Not Reevaluate Other Aspects

This week, the US Air Force issued a revised request for proposals for its $15 billion combat search and rescue helicopter (CSAR-X) competition... and it didn't take long for one of the bidders to express its dismay at the revised solicitation.

"We are extremely disappointed. The Air Force has been largely unresponsive to our questions and concerns. We are reviewing the RFP (Request for Proposals) and keeping all our options open," said Sikorsky Aircraft spokesman Paul Jackson to the Connecticut Post.

As ANN reported last November, the Air Force initially chose Boeing's HH-47, a derivative of the twin-rotor Chinook heavy-lift helo, as its CSAR-X selection. It was awarded the contract over two smaller helicopters -- Sikorsky's HH-92 (above), and the AgustaWestland HH-101, submitted by Lockheed Martin -- that those manufacturers argued better met the requirements of the contract bid.

Both Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin filed several complaints with the Government Accountability Office, each claiming the Air Force didn't follow its own procedures in selecting the Boeing bird. Earlier this year, the GAO upheld one of those protests -- saying the USAF was inconsistent in evaluating operating and maintenance life-cycle costs for the proposals.

The revision released this week by the Air Force addresses the GAO's concerns... and nothing else. Furthermore, the Air Force -- in no uncertain terms -- said it would not allow changes to other aspects of the proposal, such as reevaulating performance figures for each helicopter.

And that's why Sikorsky's miffed.

"The draft contemplates a corrective action that is seriously flawed and one that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers billions of dollars," wrote Ariel David, director of government contracts for Sikorsky, in a five-page letter to Air Force officials.

The Air Force responded with a 13-page letter of its own.

"The government will not consider any additional information... relating to the mission capability, proposal risk, past performance or any other portion of the price/cost factors," the Air Force said, reports CBS Marketwatch.

As far as Sikorsky's protests, the Air Force says it and Lockheed should have raised their concerns more forcefully during the GAO protest process.
"That is a matter between the concerned parties and their counsel," the service wrote.

In other words, tough cookies... but Davis remains undaunted, and implied Sikorsky could file another protest, or even a lawsuit.

"Sikorsky is confident that the HH-92 is the absolute best solution for the combat search-and-rescue mission; for its part, the Air Force is obligated to give the HH-92 helicopter a fair chance to compete for this requirement," he writes. "Rest assured, Sikorsky will vigorously oppose any effort by the Air Force to repeat its mistakes, make new ones, or otherwise bypass the mandate for full and open competition."

Bidders have around three weeks to submit their revised proposals.

FMI: www.af.mil, www.sikorsky.com

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