Boeing officially protested the outcome of the KC-X competition Tuesday, bringing work on the project to a halt while the Government Accountability Office evaluates the company’s complaints. Boeing received a debrief from the Air Force on Friday, and by late Monday had determined it would protest. The competition was “seriously flawed and resulted in the selection of the wrong airplane,” stated Mark McGraw, Boeing VP for tankers, in a March 11 release. McGraw said Boeing found that while the Air Force did start out trying to run a “fair, open, and transparent competition,” the process developed competitive “irregularities.” Specifically, Boeing said that, far from being a wide-margin win for Northrop Grumman, the competition was close, and too many accommodations made to keep Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 from being disqualified added up to a narrow win for the KC-30. In a teleconference with reporters Tuesday, Boeing officials said the two teams “were assigned identical ratings” across all five evaluation factors: mission capability, risk, past performance, cost, and performance in a computer model of each aircraft against a range of scenarios. Boeing said it offered a better price, but the Air Force changed the numbers to what it thought were more realistic ones. This “distortion” hurt Boeing’s offer, the company said. Boeing also said the Air Force was unreasonably subjective in choosing prior programs on which to evaluate past performance. McGraw said Boeing recognizes that delays in getting the program going will mean hardship for the Air Force, but it is not flippantly protesting. “We were treated unfairly,” he said. The GAO has 100 days—starting today—to make a determination as to the validity of Boeing’s complaints. Historically, the GAO tends to use all the time it’s given, meaning it could be late July before the Air Force knows what will happen next.
Unlike nearly every other innovative technology throughout history, Maj. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt believes the space enterprise emerged backward. “Every other domain started with an entrepreneur who built something,” Burt, the special assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, told an audience at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference.