- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2008


I have two observations to make regarding the recent debacle that is the Air Force KC-135 tanker acquisition and the competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman.

First, the Boeing KC-135 business development team submitted its proposal to Air Force acquisition officials with a smug self-assurance that the Air Force would simply rubber-stamp Boeing’s bid as an offhand formality.

However, along came Northrop Grumman with a remarkably innovative proposal that was about 20 percent cheaper (to the tune of $3 billion) and would deliver the first aircraft a full two years ahead of Boeing.

Given the two submissions, the Air Force clearly had no choice but to award the contract to Northrop Grumman. After the stunning announcement, Boeing’s response was as predictable as its protest was inevitable.

This brings me to my second observation. The Air Force has established a dreadful precedent by accepting the protest and ultimately killing the acquisition for another fiscal year. This pusillanimous decision has caused Air Force representatives to announce their intent to reimburse Northrop Grumman for expenses related to the failed acquisition.

The result: additional money spent with no tangible benefit. It sounds all too familiar. However, the real damage will appear in future large acquisitions throughout the government; losing companies will be much more likely to file protests in the hope of achieving the “Boeing effect.” No admirable accomplishment here.



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