The US Department of Defense has confirmed today that Boeing will have a second opportunity to compete for a heavily disputed $35 billion contract to build tankers for the US Air Force.

Northrop Grumman won the contract in February, but that decision was overturned last month with the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained eight elements of Boeing’s protest.

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has decided to strip the authority to make the selection decision from the US Air Force. John Young, DOD’s undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, will oversee an expedited, but complete, acquisition process.

This is the third time we’ve gone at this,” Gates told reporters. “We are most likely, most quickly to gain the confidence of Congress in the way forward by having the undersecretary oversee this contract.”

Young plans to issue an amended draft request for proposals in late July or early August, receive modified proposals from Boeing and the Northrop team, and make an award decision in December.

The amended solicitation will correct flaws in the original process uncovered by the GAO, but still leave as much of the requirements unchanged as possible, Young said.

“We would like to err on the side of changing the minimum amount" in the amended solicitation,” Young said.

The USAF’s decision to select the Northrop/EADS North America KC-30B, a modified Airbus A330-200, for the contract launched a protest claim by Boeing, which had offered the KC-767.

The GAO sustained eight of more than 100 Boeing claims of wrongdoing by USAF acquisition officials.

Source: Flight International