Peering In

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has instituted a new policy that requires a service to subject a major weapons acquisition program to peer review by its sister services during and after contract decisions. Bloomberg news wire service reported Monday that the new process took effect Sept. 30 for programs worth more than $1 billion and is meant to increase the level of confidence in the decisions that each service renders and thereby make it harder for losing bidders in high-stakes competitions to protest and derail these programs. Among the first programs expected to face the peer scrutiny are the Air Force’s CSAR-X rescue helicopter and KC-X tanker, Bloomberg said. Boeing won the $15 billion CSAR-X competition in November 2006, but two rounds of successful legal protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky caused the Air Force to reopen the contest. The service had planned to select the winner before the end of the year, but, just last week, announced a “minor delay,” making it now likely that the decision will not fall until after the new Administration is in place. As for KC-X, Northrop Grumman prevailed in February in the $35 billion contest, but Boeing lodged a legal protest and won, prompting OSD to take the lead role in the program and seek revised bids. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month decided to punt the decision to the next Administration.