It was predictable that Boeing supporters would become apoplectic when the Defense Department said it will extend the May 10 deadline 60 days to July 9 should EADS decide to submit a bid for the KC-X program, but legally DOD is within its rights.
We talked with two people yesterday who have no skin in this game and both told us that at this stage, ie, before bids have been submitted, DOD has the full discretion to set the deadlines any time it wants. Or DOD has the discretion to cancel the competition altogether, to be extreme about it.
Boeing issued a statement the next day saying it was weighing its options. What are they? (1) Don’t bid. (2) File a protest with the GAO. (3) Go to Congress. (4) Do nothing.
It’s clear the Congressional route is already being worked, given the outrage expressed by Boeing’s Congressional supporters. But forget any formal Congressional action; this isn’t realistic.
Neither is the prospect of Boeing not bidding. The strategic and tactical reasons for Boeing pursuing the contract are compelling and have been discussed here many times.
Boeing should simply move forward.
Some have also raised the prospect of Boeing filing a protest with the GAO over the extension and over DOD’s continued refusal to consider the WTO ruling finding Airbus illegally benefited from subsidies. Watch out. The 60-day extension to file a bid, to July 9, should EADS elect to pursue one, takes this past the anticipated June report to be issued by the WTO on the European complaint that Boeing illegally benefited from subsidies, including R&D from NASA and DOD. If Boeing wants to insist that WTO findings be included in the DOD assessment, Boeing could well find itself under the microscope as well; it is widely anticipated Boeing will also be found to have illegally benefited.
Further, we would watch with great amusement how those Boeing supporters who shouted about the adverse affect of the 90-day extension EADS sought, and the 60-day extension granted, would have to the process and to the warfighter would rationalize the lengthy delay that would be engendered by a Boeing protest over a mere 60-day extension–particularly since DOD plans to accelerate its evaluation period in order to maintain an early fall contract award. In the worst hyperbole and demagoguery, some claim the warfighters’ lives and safety are at risk from this 60-day extension (never mind DOD is sticking to its award deadline); let’s see them explain this away should a GAO protest be filed.
One media suggested a protest by Boeing to the WTO should be filed over the extension. This shows a misunderstanding of military procurement: WTO rules don’t apply.
For those Boeing supporters who complain about the extension, the mistake made–if there was one–was that DOD wanted competition and not a sole-source bid. But you can’t unring that bell now.
We still maintain that all this politicking is unseemly at best and the debate should be over whose airplane best fits the mission outlined in the RFP. Boeing says its airplane is best. EADS says its airplane is best. It remains unclear whether EADS will bid; it wanted a 90-day extension and isn’t sure 60-days is enough, and furthermore it is still concerned that the RFP favors Boeing’s KC-767. Let’s get on with it.
We’ll know perhaps in the week of April 12 if EADS is even going to proceed.