The Defense Department has issued a draft request for proposals to the competitors in the Air Force’s $35 billion program to acquire new aerial refueling tanker aircraft. The request went to Northrop-Grumman and Boeing, and addresses concerns the Government Accountability Office raised about the original award of the contract in February, said Shay Assad, the Defense Department’s director of procurement and acquisitions policy. Assad spoke during a Pentagon news conference today. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, recommended that the Air Force re-bid the contract – originally won by a Northrop-Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium in February. Boeing protested the decision, and in June the GAO agreed that there were irregularities in the contracting process. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said DoD would address each of the GAO's findings. “We are doing that, and we are addressing them in a very measured and serious way to ensure that we, in fact, can execute this procurement in a manner that's fair to both parties and is in the best interests of the warfighters and the taxpayers,” Assad said. DoD officials will take a week to discuss elements of the draft with Northrop-Grumman and Boeing. “Each offeror will be provided an equal amount of time to sit down and discuss face-to-face what their views are of the draft RFP,” Assad said. By the middle of August, Assad said, he expects DoD will issue the final request for proposals amendment. Both companies will have 45 days to submit their revisions to their proposals.
This takes the process out to Oct. 1, Assad said. Through late November, DoD officials will have discussions – both oral and written – with the companies about their proposals. “We would then hope to close discussions around the end of November [or] early December, request a best and final offer -- or what we now term final proposal revisions -- in the first week in December, and complete our evaluations and award right around New Year's Eve,” Assad said. Assad said the process is on track now and the department needs to finish this contract so warfighters can get “what they need at a price that the taxpayers can be pleased with”. The Northrop-Grumman contract awarded in February is under a stop-work order. If the department chooses Boeing as part of this process, then DoD will cancel the contract with Northrop-Grumman. If the new process still chooses Northrop-Grumman, then the stop-work order can be lifted and work can proceed, officials said.