Fly on the Wall

Details in a Loren Thompson issue brief on March 3 on why Northrop Grumman beat Boeing in the KC-X tanker competition didn’t come from a leak within USAF’s tanker evaluation team, according to Sue Payton, the Air Force’s acquisition executive. “To my knowledge, no one on this source-selection team provided any information to Loren Thompson,” Payton told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee March 5 during the first public hearing on the tanker decision, which USAF announced Feb. 29. “In e-mail traffic that I have seen recently, it did say that he did get information from government individuals [and] from both of the offerors.” The Air Force’s decision has set off a firestorm among lawmakers in states such as Kansas and Washington in which Boeing has a large presence (see above). At the hearing, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle wanted detailed answers from Payton and her colleagues to justify the service’s choice, especially since Thompson’s piece had gotten wide circulation in the media. He said essentially that Northrop Grumman was deemed “much better in virtually all regards,” making the contest not close. But Payton said she couldn’t comment on his piece, including its veracity, nor provide the details, especially since neither Boeing nor Northrop Grumman had been formally debriefed on their proposals. The debrief to Boeing—still scheduled for March 7, according to Boeing and confirmed to Daily Report by USAF—is especially important since it will determine whether the Chicago-based company files a legal protest with the Government Accountability Office. “Perhaps we should have had Loren B. Thompson, Ph.D., here, because he has been debriefed on this program, but we can’t get debriefed on it,” said Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan).