Winds of Protest?
DOD doesn't believe release of old Northrop pricing data should affect the new KC-X contest; Northrop disagrees.
—Michael C. Sirak
September 29, 2009—Northrop Grumman issued a statement Tuesday from Paul Meyer, who is leading its effort to capture the Air Force’s KC-X tanker contract, expressing the company’s concern that it is at a competitive disadvantage going into the new round of the tanker competition.
Northrop is upset that rival Boeing was provided with pricing information on Northrop’s tanker offering during the previous round of the competition, which ended barely out of the gate due to an escalating war of words and political wrangling.
This release of price data reportedly occurred after Northrop won the original KC-X competition in February 2008 and Boeing was debriefed on why it lost.
Subsequent to that, Boeing fielded a successful legal protest with the Government Accountability Office, and the Defense Department ultimately decided to start over under the new Presidential Administration.
“Access to comparable pricing information from Boeing has thus far been denied by the Pentagon,” writes Meyer. He adds, “It is fundamentally unfair, and distorts any new competition, to provide such critical information to only one of the bidders.”
This is especially the case, says Meyer, since “predominant emphasis” is being placed on price in the restarted tanker competition and Northrop Grumman is “again proposing” its same tanker model.
Meyer said Northrop will continue to work with the Air Force “to fully resolve this issue.” But perhaps Meyer’s words portend the company positioning itself to file a protest before the release of the final request for proposal, or to try at least to influence changes in the language of that document.
Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter addressed Northrop’s beef during a Pentagon press briefing on KC-X on Sept. 24 and indicated that the issue is not regarded by DOD officials as warranting a fix.
“DOD has examined this claim and found both that this disclosure was in accordance with regulation and, more importantly, that it created no competitive disadvantage because the data in question are inaccurate, outdated, and not germane to this source-selection strategy,” he said.
(For more, read Tuesday’s Washington Post report.)
(Full transcript of Sept. 24 press briefing on KC-X including Carter.)
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