Beware Best Value Approach?

Boeing is on the record that if the Air Force sets additional requirements to presage a best-value solution for its KC-X tanker replacement program, set to restart in the new year, it likely would face a challenge. Reuters news service reports that Boeing chief executive officer James Albaugh said Wednesday that if the service doesn’t “take a very pragmatic view” by limiting requirements and choosing the lowest cost solution, the KC-X program would be “more susceptible to protest.” On the other hand, Boeing’s competitor for the KC-X, Northrop Grumman advocates the opposite, telling the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington earlier this week that a “low-ball” solution would not serve the US military well, reports Reuters. Ronald Sugar, Northrop CEO, urged a “a rapid restart of the program … and that the competition will be conducted as a best value competition very much as the F-22 and the F-35 were conducted … as opposed to just simply a low-ball bid.” Northrop won the original KC-X competition, but Boeing successfully protested. The difficulty of producing a clean result prompted Defense Secretary Robert Gates in September to defer the competition for the next Administration. Of course, now he is to be part of the next Administration.