Boeing keeps protest options open as KC-X questions linger

Washington DC
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Boeing wants answers to "unresolved questions" before moving beyond a US Air Force blunder that sent proposal data to the wrong bidding teams for the KC-X tanker contract, the company says.

No option - including filing a protest - has been ruled out after Boeing learned that the USAF error allowed EADS North America access to a document containing proposal data.

"We're still reviewing what happened," the company says. "We're taking a hard look at the situation and implications. There are still some unresolved questions that we need to have answers for."

The USAF initially said an investigation showed no proprietary data had been compromised on either side, but acknowledged on 1 December that one company accessed a computer file containing its competitors' data.

EADS has not denied that its employees gained access to the file, but says the compact disc was secured "the minute" the error was realised.

Boeing, however, says two employees who received the compact disc recognised the problem before opening the file.

After inserting the disc into a classified laptop computer, the employees saw that the file name included an unexpected four characters - "K30B". EADS markets the US tanker version of the Airbus A330-200 as the KC-45, but previously advertised the aircraft as the KC-30B.

The employees ejected the disc and called security, the company says. As the security team stored the disc in a sealed location, the employees notified the USAF of the potential error.

"The air force gave them instructions that they followed completely," Boeing says. "It went the way it was supposed to."

The contract award date for either the Boeing KC-767 or EADS KC-45 has been delayed from November until early 2011. The USAF blames the latest delay on issues unrelated to the botched data shipment.