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September 24, 2009—Top defense leaders unveiled their new tanker acquisition strategy Thursday, telling reporters at the Pentagon they believe the requirements are more concise, far less subjective, and without ambiguity.

“This is a ‘best value’” competition, Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn said.

Although price will be a big factor—and some of the competition will demand a fixed price offer from contractors—it’s “not a price shootout,” Lynn asserted.

Other factors will include efficiency, lifecycle costs, and military construction costs, as well as simulated performance in Pentagon war plans.

When a winner is chosen—probably not sooner than next June—it should be “crystal clear to everyone” why that contractor prevailed, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter said.

The list of requirements has been whittled down from 808 to 373, mostly by using clearer language and eliminating duplication, Lynn reported.

What’s different this time is that “extras” will only come into play if the bids received on the basic, requirements-meeting aircraft are within one percent of each other.

If there is a clear winner on price, “end of story,” Carter said.

If not, “then and only then” will the extras be evaluated, and only if they are collectively worth less than one percent of the contract, he explained.

Also, no partial credit: They’re either “met” or “not met.” If, after the extras are counted, and bids are still within one percent of each other, it goes back to whoever offered the best price on the basic airframe.

“This is a lot of money, and a lot of jobs,” Lynn said. “We want to get this right.”

(Tanker RFP briefing slides) (Also read The Clock Is Running)