Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Integrity "Above All"

For our first post we want to address a leak in this announced contract that in our view requires clarification and tarnishes the Air Force's good name.

At a press conference on 29 February Sue Payton, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, announced that the Northrop Grumman/EADS team had won the contract to produce the next generation aerial refueler over rival Boeing.

When asked about specifics about the proposals Ms. Payton replied, “Actually, until we debrief Boeing, I will not -- I will not go into details there. We owe it to Boeing to give them the first debrief on this, so I will defer that question and the answer to that question until we've debriefed the offer.”

When questioned later to provide other proposal details Ms. Payton replied again, “No, I don't think I should do that. I think I owe it to Boeing to discuss the elements of our decision with them first.”

Too bad this moral high ground and honesty “above all” approach to the procurement process lasted for only 24 hours.

Contrary to Ms. Payton’s public statements Air Force personnel briefed at least one outside defense expert and sought to brief members of congress while telling Boeing that the earliest they could be briefed was the 12th of March. (Pentagon acquisition chief John Young eventually stepped in an ordered the Air Force to brief Boeing earlier on 7 March.)

These actions were taken to seed the story that Boeing had lost decisively and to make public and congressional opinion go against a possible Boeing protest. This shameful tactic did work in the media and generated numerous stories that Boeing lost decisively see here, here, and here. But if anything it only hardened congressional opinion and may have actually forced Boeing into protesting the decision. (How else were they going to get the straight story from an organization that seeming sold its integrity for preemptive media spin.)

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