July 10, 2012
Credit: Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Erick Saks
EADS could opt out of a long-delayed U.S. Air Force competition to replace its aging fleet of Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, unless the Air Force dramatically revamps its rules for the contest, the European company said on Monday.
Sean O’Keefe, chief executive of the U.S. unit of Europe’s largest aerospace company, said EADS had told top Air Force and Pentagon officials the Air Force’s draft request for proposals was so narrowly written that it would essentially knock most contenders out of the running.
He said EADS would also consider filing a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office once the Air Force released the final request for proposals in coming weeks.
“I think there’s a serious doubt whether we’re going to even bother competing for something like this,” O’Keefe told Reuters in an interview at the Farnborough Airshow.
He said EADS has asked the Air Force if it would accept NATO certification in lieu of the requirement for a U.S. certified system, but had not received a definitive response. “They said, submit it and we’ll tell you later. There was no certainty at all about whether there’s comparability there.”
O’Keefe, who served as Pentagon finance chief and Navy Secretary earlier in his career, said the Air Force’s approach to this competition ran counter to the Pentagon’s stated commitment to stimulating competition and reforming acquisition.
Not allowing EADS to submit a bid based on a helicopter that was already in service also flew in the face of calls by U.S. defense officials for industry to spend more of its own money developing new weapons systems, he said.
“In my mind, that’s exactly counter to what the acquisition reform argument is all about. It’s counter to the view that says, let’s find a way to do this less expensively,” he said.
The Air Force in March released a draft request for proposals for the HH-60 replacement program, the latest chapter in its ongoing drive to replace the aging aircraft.