Monday, March 24, 2008

Aviation Expert Supports Protest and Congressional Tanker Hearings

Highly respected aviation expert Scott Hamilton, founder of Leeham Companies, LLC calls for Congressional Hearings and a vigorous protest by Boeing.

In his recent report on the tanker issue Mr. Hamilton writes:

Boeing should pursue the protest of the award by the US Air Force of the KC-45A tanker to Northrop Grumman as aggressively as possible. Furthermore, Congressional hearings should also be pursued aggressively.

This is a complete about face of our previous positions. Here’s why: Once Boeing filed the protest, a move we did not support, and Boeing explained its reasoning, it’s clear that there is a real disconnect between what the public has been hearing from the Air Force, Northrop, aerospace analyst Loren Thompson, whose close ties to the Air Force and his information published became the focus of some criticism, and what Boeing understands from its debrief. [Note: see our previous post on this issue.]

Northrop, the Air Force and Thompson said the win by Northrop for its KC-30 wasn’t even close. Boeing says not only was the win not close, Boeing’s KC-767 actually outscored the KC-30 in several areas. Furthermore, Boeing claims the process was changed, sometimes without the Air Force telling it, during the evaluation. These changes, Boeing said, were designed to keep Northrop’s KC-30 in the competition. With the huge disconnect and the Boeing assertions, there is only one way to resolve the issue and to provide affirmation, modification or rejection of the process and decision, and that’s to aggressively pursue the protest.

Anything less will leave a cloud of doubt hanging over the Air Force’s decision and continue to subject the award to Congressional, labor and public criticisms. Even if the Government Accountability Office, with which Boeing filed the protest, affirms the award, it’s unlikely to completely quell the criticism because of the political ramifications that have enveloped this process from the start of the competition.

Mr. Hamilton's support for Boeing's protest and Congressional inquiry into the matter are welcomed by those of us here at Tanker War Blog.


Scott Hamilton said...

Before sailing off too far into the sunset on this, my call for the hearings and the protest is very narrowly constructed. It's to resolve the questions that have arisen about the process. The call is not about the merits of one plane over another, for I have long said that I believe the KC-30 to be the better airplane on a variety of technological and capacity reasons.

I believe that a vigorous GAO protest and Congressional hearings are the only way to resolve the questions. If the GAO upholds the protest, so be it. But if the GAO denies the protest, then the KC-30 critics need to respect that, too.

Scott Hamilton

Tanker War Blog said...

Thanks for the clarification Scott.
We fully understand the reasons you support the protest and the hearings are not the same as ours, but we still welcome your support and insight as to the need for both.

Warmest regards,
Tanker War Blog Staff

Anonymous said...

I think a thorough review of the process is logical for contracts of this magnitude.

Still the best should win. In my opinion jobs & hurt pride at one side cannot be a reason to send second best aircraft to the frontline.

Also I think it is good pratice not to change the rules afterwards.

Anonymous said...

If the EU Consortium gets this job it will give new meaning to the words "OVER RUN" They have been subsidized for so long they don't know how to meet cost targets.

All that, to be defined later, over run money goes straight to Europe to be spent by their workers , now how do you feel?

The Air Force will never be able to manage AirBus as their prime contractor. They are too tied into their own individual Goverment's interests.

Let uncle SAP subsidize them after all there are a lot of other A3XX wide bodies in need of development money.