The Air Force Responds to Boeing’s LRS-B Protest

The Air Force on Friday defended its handling of the Long-Range Strike Bomber competition, despite Boeing’s protest of the award. Though “it is every competitor’s right to file a protest, the Air Force is confident that the source selection team followed a deliberate, disciplined, and impartial process to determine the best value for the warfighter and taxpayer,” USAF spokesman Maj. Robert Leese said. “The Air Force will fully support the [Government Accountability Office’s] independent process. Once resolved, we look forward to proceeding with the development and fielding of the LRS-B aircraft.” The GAO has 100 days from today to evaluate Boeing’s claims: that Northrop Grumman underbid the contract, that new technologies and the experience of the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team were not properly credited, and that Northrop Grumman lacks the financial ability to carry the project through. The 100 days is an upper limit; the GAO may determine in a shorter period of time that the protest lacks merit. If the GAO determines there is merit in the protest, remedies could range from clarifying or resubmitting certain aspects of the competitors’ offers all the way up to throwing the competition out and demanding the Air Force start over. That’s what happened in 2008, when Boeing protested the Air Force’s award of the KC-X tanker contract to a team of Northrop Grumman and EADS (now Airbus). When the Air Force established new rules for a recompetition of the contract, Northrop Grumman withdrew, saying the requirements had been written to favor Boeing’s 767-based proposal. Airbus re-bid the KC-45 but lost the contest to what became the Boeing KC-46 tanker.