In another stunning twist in the USAF tanker contract, the GAO sustained the Boeing protest over the award to Northrop Grumman. In a three page press release, the GAO sustained Boeing on key elements of the protest while rejecting other unidentified elements.
One of the complaints that Boeing had was that the Air Force didn’t communicate well on the competition. This is the crux of the NA KOA complaint we’ve written about as well.
We’re swamped with media calls and e-mails, so we’ll be digesting this a bit more when we have time. But this doesn’t look like the “close call” that either side expected; it looks like a clean victory for Boeing.
The Air Force doesn’t have to follow the GAO’s decision and recommendation to reopen the bidding, but politically we don’t see how it can’t.
If we’ve got this figured out, here’s the three page press release. press-release-final-boeing-decision-6-18-08
More, 245 PM EDT: We’re going to be very interested to read the 69-page redacted GAO decision when it becomes available. It has to be sanitized for proprietary information first.
One of the things that we find stunning about this decision is that given how the Air Force screwed up the first time around 2001-04, in which people went to jail and and lost their jobs, you would have thought the USAF would have avoided screwing up this time. The Air Force even created a “shadow” group to oversee the process, yet the GAO concluded the service screwed up anyway.
What happens now? The Air Force has 60 days to decide what it will do. As mentioned, it is not legally obligated to follow this decision. In fact, on a previous GAO protest a over tanker maintenance contract, the Air Force ignored the GAO upholding the loser’s protest over the award to Boeing.
An interesting element is that the new chief of the Air Force, who assumed this office after his predecessor was unceremoniously by DOD Secretary Robert Gates, is the former chief of the Air Mobility Command–in other words, a cargo guy. What, if any, bearing this will have going forward is a matter of speculation.
More, 430 PM, EDT: Although Boeing and its supporters are understandably overjoyed by the GAO decision, and assuming the USAF does undertake a recompete, this hardly means that Boeing will win the recompete. This is going to be another uphill battle for Boeing. Any assumptions on the part of Boeing-boosters that this knocks Northrop out of the game is simply wishful thinking.
One of the questions we were asked by the media is whether the award to Northrop was the Air Force’s way of simply stuffing it (our word) to Boeing as a result of the 2004 tanker scandal, or whether the Air Force simply a bunch of bumbling idiots (the broadcaster’s words).
My response: Well, this is the government, after all, and bumbling idiots are not incompatible with government. But in all seriousness, we really won’t get the full picture until the redacted GAO decision is issued for public consumption.