Boeing on KC-X: “Methinks We Doth Protest to You”
Our FOCUS Article “The USAF’s KC-X Aerial Tanker RFP” has covered the lead-up to Boeing’s protest, in the wake of the Airbus/NGC win. Today, Boeing issued a release that discussed its claims in the coming GAO protest. Boeing claims that the USAF:
Arbitrarily discounted the KC-767’s strengths, compromising on the ability to refuel a wider range of aircraft such as the V-22 and on “the survivability of the tanker during the most dangerous missions.”
DID has asked Boeing for clarification re: which aircraft were left out, and what factors would allow the KC-767 to refuel them where the A330 MRTT could not. We have also requested elaboration on what would make the KC-767 more survivable, given that both aircraft would be equipped with the same defensive systems. The release continues…
“…in reality Boeing and the Northrop/EADS team were assigned identical ratings across all five evaluation factors… an objective review of the data as measured against the Request for Proposal shows that Boeing had the better offering in terms of Most Probable Life Cycle Costs, lower risk and better capability.”
This would appear to be an argument that the USAF misapplied their own criteria when generating evaluation ratings.
“It is clear that frequent and often unstated changes during the course of the competition — including manipulation of evaluation criteria and application of unstated and unsupported priorities among the key system requirements…”
This is a very serious set of charges, especially the 2nd and 3rd charges re: manipulation, and the use of unadvertised priorities. They will need to be backed by solid examples to be credible, and the release did not do so. If the GAO determines them to be credible based on evidence submitted, however, a decision against the USAF would be the likely outcome.
“…the company was effectively denied its right to compete with a commercial-derivative product, contrary not only to the RFP but also to federal statute and regulation. The Air Force refused to accept Boeing’s Federal Acquisition Regulation-compliant cost/price information, developed over 50 years of building commercial aircraft, and instead treated the company’s airframe cost/price information as if it were a military-defense product.”
As DID’s prior coverage has noted, there are reports that Boeing Commercial Aircraft was not as forthcoming as Airbus in providing this information, and the grounds of competitive sensitivity. That would be an odd rationale indeed for an aircraft model that may be canceled if it loses the tanker contract. A recent Wall Street Journal report says the problem was that “the level of detail needed for the government’s cost analysis was more than what the commercial side could offer.”
Testimony, and time, will tell.
“Rather than consider recent performance assessments that should have enhanced Boeing’s position, the Air Force focused on relatively insignificant details on “somewhat relevant” Northrop/EADS programs to the disadvantage of Boeing’s experience.”
DID has asked Boeing which program performance assessments should have been included, and weren’t.
In response to our queries, Boeing has indicated a willingness to discuss the V-22 and related aircraft issue. With respect to other questions, Boeing replies that DID’s “desire for detail will be taken care of as our protest filing is released in the days ahead.”
June 18/08: Boeing’s protest is sustained by the GAO. See full DID coverage.