Another Tanker Redux?

Not only is the Air Force facing great difficulty in fielding new tankers, its efforts to task a contractor to help maintain its current refueling fleet may be derailed once again based on a federal court decision announced yesterday. Indeed a US federal claims court has ruled that the Air Force must redo its solicitation to find a company to perform programmed depot maintenance on the Eisenhower-era KC-135s, according to an Oct. 1 statement issued by Alabama Aircraft Industries, Inc., one of two companies vying for this work. AAII filed a federal suit against the Air Force and Boeing, the other competitor, in June after the Air Force had decided to proceed with the $1.1 billion contract that it originally awarded to Boeing in September 2007. AAII won a first protest of the award in a December 2007 decision from the Government Accountability Office. This caused the Air Force to re-examine the bids. But when the service decided to stay with its selection of Boeing, AAII filed a second protest with the GAO, which it subsequently lost, prompting the company to turn to federal court. The court’s Sept. 30 ruling enjoins the Air Force from proceeding with the original award to Boeing and requires the service to issue a new solicitation that addresses “explicitly the role of an ever-aging KC-135 fleet on the PDM to be performed,” according to AAII. “We could not be more pleased,” said Ron Aramini, AAII’s president and CEO, of the court’s decision. “The deficiencies in the award obviously have been recognized and finally addressed.” The Air Force told the Daily Report yesterday that it had stopped work “while it reviews” the decision, adding, “The Air Force is committed to supporting the warfighter, while providing the best value for the taxpayer, and will take appropriate action consistent with the court’s decision.” For more on the court ruling, read yesterday’s Reuters article.