A Life of Protest

The Air Force expects to award the KC-X tanker replacement program late this summer, but it also expects the loser—whether it’s Boeing or Northrop Grumman—to protest the decision. A senior service official told reporters Monday, “I anticipate an immediate protest.” That’s not because of a lack of confidence in the acquisition process, he added, but because “DOD procurement has scrunched so low” that the stakes are too high on any major military program not to exhaust every conceivable avenue of winning the work. Competition for major programs has reached “a new level of intensity,” he said, and every program has become a “must win” for the handful of dedicated major defense primes still in the business. Although protests likely will become the norm, the senior USAF official disdained a suggestion to factor protests into the schedule … just yet. That would be tantamount to planning for failure in the acquisition process, he said.