Northrop, EADS to skip tanker bid
Update, March 9, 7am PST:
EADS will not independently bid for the KC-X contract, Market Watch reports.
Update, 1pm PST:
Northrop will no-bid and not protest, we have confirmed. EADS is undecided whether to proceed with a bid on its own but it is unlikely. Northrop’s decision was reached over the weekend.
The USAF RFP was built to be a bid for the cheapest tanker, in the view of a source close to the competition. It was unwinnable by Northrop, it was concluded.
In the near-term, this kills the Airbus plan to build a production facility in Alabama.
As we reported Feb. 23, a DOD document pretty well indicated that the extra capability of the KC-30 wasn’t important in this round but that it would be considered in a future competition.
Northrop bid $184m in the 2007 competition it won for the KC-30 and suggests that taxpayers need to be sure Boeing comes in below this price as a sole-source bidder.
The full Northrop press release is below the jump.
Statement from Northrop Grumman on US Air Force Aerial Refueling Tanker Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 8, 2010 – The following is a statement from Wes Bush, Chief Executive Officer and President of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), concerning the U.S. Air Force aerial refueling tanker program.
“After a comprehensive analysis of the final RFP, Northrop Grumman has determined that it will not submit a bid to the Department of Defense for the KC-X program. We reached this conclusion based on the structure of the source selection methodology defined in the RFP, which clearly favors Boeing’s smaller refueling tanker and does not provide adequate value recognition of the added capability of a larger tanker, precluding us from any competitive opportunity.
“Northrop Grumman fully respects the Department’s responsibility to determine the military requirements for the new tanker. In the previous competition, Northrop Grumman was selected by the Air Force as offering the most capable tanker for the warfighter at the best value for the taxpayer. However, the Northrop Grumman and EADS team is very disappointed that the revised source selection methodology now dramatically favors Boeing’s smaller refueling tanker. We agree that the fundamental military requirements for the new tanker have not changed since the last competition, but the Department’s new evaluation methodology now clearly favors the smaller tanker.
“We continue to believe that Northrop Grumman’s tanker represents the best value for the military and taxpayer – a belief supported by the selection of the A330 tanker design over the Boeing design in the last five consecutive tanker competitions around the globe. Regrettably, this means that the U.S. Air Force will be operating a less capable tanker than many of our Allies in this vital mission area.
“Our prior selection by the Air Force, our firm belief that we provide the best value offering, and the hard work and commitment of the many individuals and communities on our team over many years made this a difficult decision for our company. But we have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders to prudently invest our corporate resources, as do our more than 200 tanker team suppliers across the United States. Investing further resources to submit a bid would not be acting responsibly.
“We have decided that Northrop Grumman will not protest. While we feel we have substantial grounds to support a GAO or court ruling to overturn this revised source selection process, America’s service men and women have been forced to wait too long for new tankers. We feel a deep responsibility to their safety and to their ability to fulfill the missions our nation calls upon them to perform. Taking actions that would further delay the introduction of this urgent capability would also not be acting responsibly.
“We recognize that our decision likely creates a sole-source outcome for Boeing. We call on the Department to keep in mind the economic conclusions of the prior round of bidding as it takes actions to protect the taxpayer when defining the sole-source procurement contract. In the previous round, the Air Force, through a rigorous assessment of our proposal, determined that it would pay a unit flyaway cost of approximately $184 million per tanker for the first 68 tankers, including the non-recurring development costs. With the Department’s decision to procure a much smaller, less capable design, the taxpayer should certainly expect the bill to be much less.”
The EADS PDF statement may be download here: EADS North America KC-X Tanker statement
Update, 12n PST:
The Seattle Times reports EADS will not bid. It’s been added to the original story.
We’ve gotten no return calls or a no comment from our efforts to confirm. The two news agencies say an announcement will be forthcoming after the market closes today.
The Times cites NGC concern over the fixed-price aspect of the bid, rather than the technical merits. We confirmed that NGC has a protest of the Final Request for Proposal prepared, but if The Times and Reuters are correct, perhaps EADS will pick up the work and file its own protest. Reuters suggests EADS may go alone on this effort despite concerns over the RFP.
A straight-forward EADS submission will only aggravate the political thumping by Boeing supporters. The final World Trade Organization report on illegal subsidies to Airbus is expected shortly, and there will be no pretense of this being a US-based KC-30.
From previous conversations, we know that EADS favors going forward with a bid. Costs are already sunk; EADS is building the KC-30 MRTT for Australia, Britain and other countries; and EADS has a major strategy to increase its US defenses business.