Protest-Proofing the LRS-B

The only way to prevent a successful protest of the Long-Range Strike Bomber contract award is to execute it exactly as planned, Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante told Air Force Magazine. LaPlante said the lesson learned from the KC-X debacle—which resulted in a years-long competition being thrown out and re-run, with different results—is to “do what you say you’re going to do. If you say how you’re going to evaluate, that it’s clear and unambiguous, and then you evaluate it … in a credible and substantive way, that you followed exactly the process you said you’d follow,” then a protest likely won’t succeed. LaPlante said he recognizes that companies that don’t win contracts “have every right” to protest—”there are a lot of hard-working people out there who legitimately are trying their best to help the nation’s security and give us the best product”—but USAF has built a good track record of protests not being sustained. The figure is very small—out of 100,000-plus contracting actions last year, only 150 were protested, “and out of those … [only about] two … were sustained, if that much. So the success rate … is actually very, very low,” and well below the federal government rate of about seven percent, said LaPlante. Still, he believes there has to be an appeals process, because “you never want to be cocky about it. We’re humans, and we make mistakes.”