Confidence Game

Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante is “confident” but “not cocky” that the Air Force’s choice of Northrop Grumman in the Long-Range Strike Bomber competition will stand up under the protest by losing bidder Boeing/Lockheed Martin. Speaking with reporters on the eve of his departure from the top USAF acquisition post, LaPlante said the Air Force spent months ensuring that “we took the time to get it right” on the LRS-B. The Air Force followed acquisition law when it used historical information on previous bomber programs to estimate LRS-B costs, he said, and also followed the law by obtaining independent cost estimates, … which wound up being only a couple of percent different from one another. Boeing has charged that USAF didn’t give its efficient production skills proper credit in the competition. A senior acquisition official said the months of delay between when the LRS-B contract was expected to be awarded—in late spring—and the actual award in November were driven by “answering every question from the contractors, and documenting every answer.” LaPlante said Tuesday that a protest was largely expected, but that “everything possible” had been done to make sure the choice would hold. He said his departure isn’t connected in any way to the protest, but simply that he planned a three-year stint in government office, and now needs to return to the private sector to earn enough to pay college tuition for his daughters.