Chronic Problem

The Government Accountability Office found no reason to think that anyone in the Air Force intentionally broke the law in awarding the KC-X contract to Northrop Grumman during its review of the process, which resulted in a recommendation to reopen bidding. Speaking before the AirLand panel of the House Armed Services Committee Thursday afternoon during an open hearing on the GAO decision and USAF acquisition in general, GAO attorney Daniel Gordon said that GAO found “no evidence … of criminal misconduct” and “not one iota of evidence of intentional wrongdoing by anyone in the Air Force” in selecting the Northrop/EADS team over Boeing. Rather, some of the Air Force’s processes were flawed, and the service made too many assumptions on Northrop’s behalf that skewed what was a close contest, Gordon said. And, he asserted that the Air Force has one particular problem that “comes up with some frequency” during GAO reviews of protests: The Air Force either fails to disclose some of the criteria on which bidders will be judged, or fails to take its own judgment criteria into account when making an award. Despite that, Gordon noted that USAF’s track record is about the same as that of the other services when it comes to sustainable protests.