The Tanker Deal

Today the Government’s Accountability Office (GAO) upheld Boeing’s protest over the tanker deal.   This all most certainly means that the Air Force will have to re-compete it.  The GAO said the Air Force:

• didn’t assess the relative merits of the two contending airplanes in accordance with its stated criteria.

• gave Northrop extra credit for exceeding certain performance parameters, when this was expressly not allowed.

• failed to show that the A330 could refuel all of the Air Force aircraft it needs to service.

• misled Boeing about its failure to meet certain performance parameters, while giving fuller information to Northrop.

• dismissed a Northrop failure to agree to an aircraft maintenance plan as only “an adminstrative oversight” when it was a material requirement.

• made unreasonable estimates of the cost of constructing runways, ramps and hangars needed for the larger Airbus jet, which led to the conclusion that Northrop offered lower total program costs – when in fact Boeing’s overall cost was lower.

• inappropriately rejected Boeing’s estimate of its non-recurring cost to develop the program, using an “unreasonable” model to increase that cost estimate.

From my partisan point of view it sounds like the Air Force cheated.  Now some might recall that this was actually the second iteration of the Tanker Deal.  In the first round Boeing was found to have acted illegally.  So it looks like we will have yet a third iteration.  Maybe the third time is a charm?

In a preamble to today’s announcement, earlier this week the GAO upheld the award of a contract to maintain the existing tankers.  By coincidence the previous vendor for this contract was a firm in Alabama.  The same state in which Northrop had planned to build their new tanker.  I score this week as Boeing 2, AL 0.

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