Boeing placed nationwide advertisements Tuesday about its protest over the USAF award to the GAO.
This is part of the public relations campaign by Boeing we’ve disliked. Just as we thought the USAF award had to be done on its merits and not some PR campaign, the protest to the GAO should be done on its merits and not on the basis of some PR campaign.
We’re disappointed with this approach.
Update, March 27, 0830 PDT: Yesterday the Air Force and Northrop filed dismissal requests with the GAO over portions of the Boeing protest.
Says a Northrop source:
“Bottom line is Boeing played super bowl, accepted rules, played game fully expected to win, and lost. Now says rules not fair. Should have said rules were not fair before kickoff. Did not.
“Legally they had 10 chances to protest before they submitted. They instead said it was fair up to when they lost. Cause they expected to win.”
Here’s the official announcement from Northrop about its filing:
Northrop Grumman, today, filed a motion with the GAO to dismiss significant portions of Boeing’s “PR-Plated” protest of the Air Force tanker award.
Northrop Grumman’s motion argues that much of what Boeing complains about was contained in the KC-X Request for Proposal and should have been questioned, or perhaps protested, before Boeing submitted its final bid.
We are challenging Boeing’s protest claims on the grounds that:
- Boeing’s challenge of the KC-30′ superior aerial refueling and airlift capability is untimely and should be dismissed.
- Boeing’s challenge of the RFP’s Integrated Fleet Aerial Refueling Assessment (IFARA) evaluation structure is too late.
- Boeing’s claims that its past tanker experience and superior survivability, and the issue of government subsidies were ignored by the Air Force are untimely because tanker experience was not a proposal requirement and the other items should have been challenged by Boeing long before it submitted its proposal.
- Boeing’s challenge to the Air Forces decision to increase Boeing’s cost proposal is untimely because Boeing knew the basis for the increase long before filing its final proposal.
- Boeing’s claim that the Air Force improperly evaluated its schedule is untimely because Boeing knew of the schedule issue before submitting its final proposal.
Filing a protest – especially when it’s a protest seeking to block the deployment of a defense system as vital to our men and women in uniform as the KC-45A tanker – is extremely serious business.
While Northrop Grumman fully supports the protest process, Northrop Grumman filed this motion as an effort to clear the air and afford the GAO the opportunity to do its job without distraction.
Boeing responded that it objects to any effort by Northrop or the USAF to limit the scope of the protest.
We didn’t support the filing of a protest but as long as one was filed, we believe that a vigorous “prosecution” of it is the only way to clear the air. We’re in no position to judge the merits of the protest, and neither is anybody in Congress on either side of the issue. We believe that it’s in the best interests of everyone involved to thoroughly address all points.
While we think Northrop has some points as outlined above, we’re not sure that dismissing issues on technicalities makes good sense, because it give critics of the award further opportunity to moan. We lean toward letting all issues remain in the protest and letting the GAO affirm or dismiss them, one-by-one, as the best way to answer all the questions and critics.
Having said that, there is one element to Boeing’s complaint we think is stretching the point. Boeing complains that the USAF did not take into account the first KC-767 delivered to Japan. We think this is irrelevant. The first delivery to the Japanese industrial partner, not even the Japanese Air Force, took place February 19, just 10 days before the Air Force announced its award. The second delivery was March 5, five days after the award was announced. Delivery of the second obviously came too late for inclusion in the evaluation process and this is probably also true for the first. More relevant to the evaluation process was Boeing’s performance leading up to delivery of the first tanker, and Boeing’s track record on the Japanese and related Italian KC-767 contracts was poor.
Boeing may have lots of legitimate grounds for complaining about the award, but failure to consider delivery of the Japanese tankers isn’t one of them. Inclusion in Boeing’s high profile complaining only undermines their other salient points.