US Air Force Tanker Bid to Be Reopened

The US Department of Defense reopened the bidding between Boeing and the Northrop-Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium for the midair refueling tanker contract yesterday afternoon because of major flaws the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in the original source selection. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates made the announcement, and took away the source selection authority from the US Air Force and gave it instead to Mr. John Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley said that even though the â''GAO's conclusions show that even in a large, complex procurement with considerable staff resources and oversight, work accomplished by our contracting personnel, our warfighters and our engineers is not always adequately prepared to withstand the detailed audits and the legal challenges that we can now expect,â'' Air Force acquisition is not â''fatally flawed.â''

The Air Force will still get to manage the program after the contract is awarded (and hopefully not protested).

In a bit of jaw-boning (or wishful thinking), Young said, â''I think that would probably be the only silver lining in this, is the possibility that both teams decide to sharpen their pencils and offer the taxpayer and the warfighter an even better deal.â''

Young better be careful for what he wishes for. â''Optimistic biddingâ'' â'' or buying-in â'' is a major reason for procurement messes, as the GAO once more recently pointed out.

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