After the stunning selection of Northrop Grumman and EADS over Boeing for the US Air Force's KC-X tanker comes the Government Accountability Office's brutal verdict. The Air Force got it wrong on six counts, and should make a new source-selection decision. See the story on AviationWeek.com.
Most of the detail of the GAO's 69-page decision is under a protective order as it contains "proprietary and source selection sensitive" information, but the Congressional watchdog is pushing for the speedy release of a public version.
Even without the detail, the GAO's statement sustaining Boeing's protest is a comprehensive condemnation of the Air Force's acquisition practices. If the Pentagon had not already fired the Air Force leadership, they would be out on their ears after this.
The GAO says the Air Force "made a number of significant errors the could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman". It cites seven specific reasons for sustaining Boeing's protest. Many will sound familiar to those of you who have followed Aviation Week's coverage of the contest.
1 - the Air Force did not assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation.
2 - using the fact that Northrop's larger KC-30 exceeded the aerial refuelling requirement as a "key discriminator" violated the provision that no consideration would be given to exceeding objectives.
3 - the "reasonableness" of the determination that the KC-30 could refuel all current USAF fixed-wing aircraft was not demonstrated.
4 - the Air Force "conducted misleading and unequal discussions with Boeing," first saying it had satisfied a key objective, then determining it was only partially met, but not telling Boeing of the change in assessment.
5 - the Air Force "unreasonably determined" that Northrop's refusal to agree to support setting up an organic depot capability within two years of delivery was an "administrative oversight".
6 - the Air Force made errors calculating the most probable life-cycle cost that, when corrected, made Boeing, and not Northrop, the lowest bidder.
7 - the Air Force "improperly increased" Boeing's estimated development costs for the KC-767A when it had not found the costs to be unrealistically low.