Reuters is reporting that the US Air Force plans to hold seperate day-long meetings with Boeing and Northrop Grumman to discuss their KC-X tanker bids, in the hope of avoiding a protest from the losing bidder when it announces the winner of the $40 billion contest in February.
The USAF is seriously gun shy after the KC-767 lease debacle and previous successfully upheld protests against contract awards ranging from the Small Diameter Bomb through the C-130 AMP avionics upgrade to the CSAR-X combat search-and-search helicopter.
In the case of CSAR-X, and after two rounds of protests, the USAF has just released its fifth amendment to the RFP and now hopes to award a contract after the middle of 2008 – at least 18 months after Boeing’s HH-47 emerged as the unexpected winner of the original $15 billion competition.
The USAF’s answer with KC-X and CSAR-X is to hold “face-to-face meetings…to foster open communications and ensure a mutual understanding”. But will it prevent a protest? Since when did talking ensure understanding?