GAO forces review of Northrop deal

by ilsm
(submitted June 23)

One point of view is here on the KC-45 win for the taxpayer.
I will highlight a couple of points.

1. “The Air Force, in making the award decision, did not assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation…”

This is contracts 101! What were they thinking? Whose political influence went into the evaluation? How much hubris? I would suggest a review of the Air Force testimony from March 08 just after the award.

2. The Air Force’s use as a key discriminator that Northrop Grumman proposed to exceed a key performance parameter objective relating to aerial refueling to a greater degree than Boeing violated the solicitation’s evaluation provision that “no consideration will be provided for exceeding [key performance parameter] objectives.”

4. The Air Force conducted misleading and unequal discussions with Boeing, by informing Boeing that it had fully satisfied a key performance parameter objective relating to operational utility, but later determined that Boeing had only partially met this objective,.
Bait and switch?

5. The Air Force unreasonably determined that Northrop Grumman’s refusal to agree to a specific solicitation requirement that it plan and support the agency to achieve initial organic depot-level maintenance within two years after delivery of the first full-rate production aircraft was an “administrative oversight,” and improperly made award, despite this clear exception to a material solicitation requirement.

Here the Air Force was accepting (ignoring a couple of statutes that support doing such work in a government depot) that there will be a lucrative performance based logistics for Northrop and Airbus to make huge sums, just as successful as the one with them on the B-2. Lots of good money for Northrop in the future here. Maybe they can maintain the pitot tubes better on an Airbus than on a Northrop developed airplane?

Paragraphs 6 and 7 tell how the evaluators from Air Force tweeked the Boeing life cycle cost estimate so that Boeing with a smaller airplane seems to cost more than the Northrop with its imperfect (from the offer requirement requirement) performance based logistics scheme. It is a fact (physical, Isaac Newton etc) that weight is the driver of cost in airplanes.

Air Force assumed that Boeing would overrun while Northrop would perform miracles.

What were they thinking?

A parting coment on the use of “key performance parameter objective” in evaluating a proposal. What is the link between the “objectives” and utility as well as whether the thing will ever be achieved?

There is a lot of operational science behind these “objectives” which I suppose was not any better than the flawed evaluation.

The Air Force went to whittle the bigger beak!

Rdan here: The redacted decision from GAO was published online today (June 25)in pdf version.