Playing the Northrop card

The Wall Street Journal just posted a story with a definitive statement from Boeing saying it may no-bid the tanker contract if it doesn’t get six months to prepare a new bid.

The Department of Defense is thinking about adding 15 days, for a total of 60, to its revised Request for Proposals, expected to be issued as early as Monday.

Northrop Grumman threatened to no-bid the original Round Two RFP if certain language was not changed that it considered favored Boeing and disadvantaged Northrop. The language was changed, Northrop remained in the bidding process and to the surprise of everyone–including Northrop–it won the contract, announced February 29.

The WSJ story confirms what was first reported by Amy Butler of Aviation Week magazine, and downplayed at the time by Boeing. Reuters earlier today had a reference to the possibility of a no-bid. The WSJ story quotes Boeing IDS president Jim Albaugh, as a solid a source as possible.

We think Boeing’s request for six months is prudent and reasonable.

15 Comments on “Playing the Northrop card

  1. RE: “We think Boeing’s request for six months is prudent and reasonable.”

    I don’t.
    They’ve been working towards getting a rebid for months. Their product line options are limited without additional YEARS of more effort and if they’re competent, they’ve been what-iffing this thing for months as well. They’ve probably got a Chinese menu of optional configurations in their hip pocket at this second, just waiting for the final RFP. And as anyone who’s been on a capture team can tell you, there’s never ‘enough’ time to submit the perfect bid.

    Boeing has had enough time. They got their ‘recompete’, so why should they get to dictate any more terms as well?

    ANYTHING they bid will inherently have more risk than the now-flying KC-45 airframes and the now tested advanced boom. Why? Because Boeing decided long ago to not actually build their entry UNTIL they won. An interesting tactic, considering the universal calls to field the new tanker as soon as possible. (That is it was ‘universal’ until Boeing LOST.) If NG/EADS decides to offer a variant of their current airframe, it is STILL a lower risk effort because they already have a boom.

    That Boeing would subvert the entire defense acquisition process and system, on a contract that means little to their military programs, but has huge implications for their domestic commercial monopoly on large commercial airframes, tells me everything I need to know about Boeing’s priorities. Let them ‘no-bid’ if they want this time, maybe they won’t be so lackadasial the next time and offer a better competitor for the KC-Y.

    Their bid, er bed – let them lay in it.

  2. BTW. Any bets the WSJ ‘no bid’ crowing isn’t just more of the same politicizing that the Borg have been doing from the moment they lost?

  3. Boeing really have nothing competitive to offer as evidenced by the commercial success of the 767 against the A330.

    All Boeing are doing is drawing out an agony.

    Let them use their resources to sort out the 787 and gracefully bow out.

  4. It is absolutely appropriate.

    The Air Force screwed this up and dictated these terms when they changed the RFP requirements and how certain items were calculated/awarded, not Boeing. If the Air Force simply recalculated the results without changing the structure of the RFP, then a quick re-bid would be appropriate. You have to give both parties a chance to have a fair recompete after any change in the RFP.

  5. Any changes requested by NG at the time were protestable by Boeing, as stated in the USAF motion to dismiss. They did not. Probably through arrogance of thinking it was in the bag anyway.

    Boeing want to delay the submission by 6 months, not to offer a better product (they have had plenty of time for that) but to gather enough political support to scrap this procurement effort and start all over again.

  6. Well, a presumably democratic administration will be in power in 6 months time… so I see it as a double ploy…

    There really isn’t a 767 that can compete with the A330 even the “764” The language used by the pentagon ONLY places the emphasis on more merit being given to exceeding the fuel carrying criteria, as opposed to providing none. Boeing obviously cannot have the confidence in it’s product if it solidly believes this is the deciding factor (what about all those other pluses it was carping on about for years).

    It’s either another untried paper airplane, which can carry more fuel than it’s initial offering and eating into its prior 767 argument. Boeing would be better suited looking into fuel bladders IMO if possible.

    If Northrop asked for more time, politically, would it happen?

  7. RE: “The Air Force screwed this up and dictated these terms when they changed the RFP requirements”

    Pure Boeing propaganda. there were changes between the draft RFPs and the draft RFP and Final RFP. Once the RFP was in final form, THAT was what counted and that is when the clock started ticking for a proposal.

  8. What final RFP? Boeing has every right to contest any change in the RFP because any change in the RFP means the requirements have changed. If you want a fair competition, then all bidders must have a chance to submit their best proposals to the best of their abilities and every chance must be given by the requestor (Air Force) within reason. 6 months is not an unreasonable request. A year’s extension would be. Two months is not worth Boeing’s time because you cannot design any change to an aircraft in that time especially when the deck is so stacked in Airbus’ favor. The Air”bus” Force has absolutely no clue how to run this properly and they are way beyond the point where this competition will always be considered a massive failure no matter who wins or loses.

  9. Thats correct it will be considered a massive failure whoever wins or looses now.

    But I just don’t see how you can make the 767 an adequate competitor to the A330, commercially it was built from the ground up to beat every variant of the 767. 2, 3, 6 months or 1 year it’s still probably the case. Im a bit beyond the whole competition now anyway – What if there’s yet another ‘misunderstanding’, what if there’s unfair political intervention because of a change in administration?

    So many what ifs, not that anyone had an unreasonable proposal, that the whole fair competition thing has become a joke. Looking at the GAO, it itself is unionised – so it is very hard to see just How it was an impartial arbitrator to begin with.

  10. RE: Link provided by Ken.
    Things like ‘…French Airbus…’ automatically put me on red alert. He either knows very little about Airbus and its products or Boeing has submitted this for the publication. Also ‘…huge Airbus, even though it’s too big and too heavy to perform the mission’, say who, Mr. Babbin? Has he taken part in the evaluation process? I wonder why he has not mentioned the fact that 762AT cannot take off from a 7,000ft runway with full fuel load or fly unrefueled for 9,500nm, which are RFP requirements. Sounds like a good old fashioned BS coming from Boeing.

  11. Since we’re ‘linking’ Contrast the Boeing-Babbin “they’re French!” scare lines with Douglas McIntyre’s thoughts at: http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/08/22/boeing-ba-to-take-its-ball-and-go-home/

    Interesting development:
    NG’s tanker blog was kind enough to send me (and millions of others no doubt) info on McIntyre’s post, but when I click on the America’s New Tanker link at the top of this page, today it redirects you to the NG main web with a video of NG’s CEO and statement on Boeing’s latest machinations. Poor web protocol. I had a small web design business for a while and know that people hate being redirected without advanced notice of the ‘click’. I wish NG would have left their site alone and just linked prominently. this was clearly a Corporate direction vs. webmaster decision. Hope they fix it.

  12. If the 767 is so good, I wonder why Boeing came up with the 787?

    Problem is it would be may years before it could be built as a tanker, but its very existence points to an admission by Boeing that the 767 is yesterdays child.

    Would you buy 170 odd of last years model cars if you were planning for a 40 year life expectancy?

  13. Andrew’s point should be well taken by all. The LCC of a 15 year-older 767 design will tend to be higher due to supportability and in particular parts obsolescence issues. This could very well overcome any inherent durability design advantages the 767 might otherwise have over the EADS airframe.

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