Gates turns KC-X into KC-Ex

Why does all the big KC-X news break while I’m sequestered at an unrelated press conference?

I was just sitting down for a Pentagon media roundtable on the C-130 in June when the GAO upheld Boeing’s protest. And I was in the midst of a 3-hr briefing today by BAE Systems when the Secretary of Defense Bob Gates released the decision to cancel the competition.

Canceling the competition is the greater surprise, to my mind. They gave up? Threw in the towel? Why? What does the current administration have to lose by moving forward on the competition, if they are leaving office after January anyway? Why not continue to try to do what they believed was best for the air crews who need a new tanker? They can’t control what happens after they select a bidder, but don’t they still have a duty to at least try?

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5 Responses to Gates turns KC-X into KC-Ex

  1. HerkEng 10 September, 2008 at 7:36 pm #

    Maybe they finally listened to the aircrews…

    You been to a Airlift/Tanker Convention? No one who flies the KC-135s wanted the EADS plane…

  2. John Penta 11 September, 2008 at 1:28 am #

    Gates gave up because even by now, the decision is more political than anything covered by the acquisition process – realistically, Obama = a Boeing win, McCain = an EADS/Northrop win.

  3. Royce 11 September, 2008 at 2:14 pm #

    The GAO decision backed Boeing. A recompete was necessary, and it was clear at the time of the GAO report came out that there wasn’t enough time to recompete before the December holidays. The decision just seems to ratify what was obvious a while back.

  4. Stephen Trimble 11 September, 2008 at 2:19 pm #

    Shouldn’t it be possible for a buyer to decide what it wants within six months? They were simply amending the RFP, not restarting the acquisition process.

  5. Royce 11 September, 2008 at 2:39 pm #

    If it was as simple as the current Air Force leaders deciding what they wanted at a point in time, procurement would be simple. They’d just sole source a platform. They would have selected the KC-767 a long time ago if that was the kind of process everyone wanted. Keep in mind that for a long time, Northrop Grumman was threatening to drop its bid if it felt that the competition was merely for show.

    Once the Congress mandated a competition, rules and procedures became very important. The USAF broke the rules. The GAO made that clear. Now there are too many stakeholders involved here to get the rules set, bid prepared, criteria evaluated, etc. within a few months.

    A quick recompete was always going to be subject to attack as the USAF just jiggering the RFP to lead to a KC-45 win (in other words, sole sourcing it via a back door). It wasn’t a viable option. The decision was bound to be protested even if made in December, so no matter what they were going to be into the next administration.

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