It’s a Big Deal:

The Air Force did its best to run its KC-X tanker competition as openly and transparently as possible in the hopes of avoiding a long, drawn-out protest by the losing offeror, Gen. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff, said Thursday. “We have just said, we will do this the best we possibly can,” Moseley told the Defense Writers Group Feb. 28 just a day if not only hours away from the long-anticipated announcement of the winner in the multi-billion-dollar recapitalization contest between Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS. “We will do this in the most defensible way we possibly can. And if there [are] any issues that get protested to the GAO, let them look at it. If we have missed something, we will fix it.” That said, Moseley said he hopes there’s no protest on KC-X because of the potential for it to have the same major cost and schedule impact that its CSAR-X combat rescue helicopter recapitalization program has suffered since November 2006 due to industry protests. “We have lost $800 million in [the CSAR-X protests] and we have lost over a year to year-and-a-half of operational time on not being able to field an airplane,” he said. Equally concerning is the fact that the delays force the Air Force to keep flying its aged HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, placing pilots potentially at greater risk. Pilots of USAF’s Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers set for replacement would be asked to fly those aircraft for even longer if there are major delays from a KC-X protest, Moseley said. “To me, that is a big deal,” he said. “It’s a big deal for the people I ask to take the airplane to combat.” (For more on KC-X read Just Say No)