Talk, talk – avoiding a USAF KC-X tanker protest

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.

HH-47%20small.jpg 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?

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3 Responses to Talk, talk – avoiding a USAF KC-X tanker protest

  1. Aurora 21 November, 2007 at 2:54 pm #

    Talk all they want, a protest is inevitable no matter who wins. Why? Simply because they can.

    Eventually, Congress will have to act on this and restrict the reasons for filing a protest since it is placing the acquisition workforce in a lose-lose situation. In other words, no matter the degree of due diligence taken by the services, the loser will always protest for one reason or another. Most protests are tossed anyway, but they eat up time and resources.

  2. The Woracle 21 November, 2007 at 3:09 pm #

    Protesting seems to have become the first, rather than last, resort.

    Personally, I don’t think the US “best value” source-selection approach works when it comes to buying essentially off-the-shelf equipment.

    Look at the wide differences in size and performance between the HH-47, H-92 and US101 for CSAR-X and the 767 and A330 for KC-X. How can you ensure a fair comparison?

  3. The Woracle 22 November, 2007 at 9:37 pm #

    Requirements never seem to evolve towards a smaller aircraft. Look at VXX, they are going to have to build a bigger Increment 2 version of the VH-71/US101 to carry all the stuff the US president “needs”. What would Sikorsky have done had it won VXX with the smaller VH-92? This thing’s going to be a size of a Chinook when they finish. VH-47 anyone?

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