Tough Love

Former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne thinks the service should be pitiless with losing contractors, so they’re not encouraged to endlessly protest important contracts. Excessively kind language, he said, leads the losers to think they only lost by a hair. In the KC-X tanker competition, “We should have been harsher on the loser,” Wynne said during an interview July 28. However, the service refrained from frank comments. Instead of writing a ” ‘We don’t want you memo’ ” to Boeing after it lost to Northrop Grumman, the service crafted a ” ‘We like you, but you didn’t win’ memo,” Wynne said. “I just don’t think the write-up was harsh enough.” Boeing was apparently emboldened by the perceived narrow miss to launch its protest, which has put the coveted tanker contract back up for grabs. Wynne said USAF should also be more candid with the public, which he believes should have been told that “Boeing did not bid the 767 tanker.” Instead, he explained, Boeing “bid an amalgamation of a 767 [air]frame, with the 777 avionics and 787 components.” USAF “should have been clearer that [Boeing’s proposal] was not a 767 anymore.” The Air Force has a chance to apply this tack in the selection of a new combat search and rescue helicopter, Wynne said. Like KC-X, the CSAR-X program has been stuck in protest purgatory. He said he hopes, on CSAR, the Air Force can develop enough differences to deliver a straight jab to the losers. “They have got to do that,” said Wynne. He left the Air Force on June 20 after disputes with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.