U.S. DoD restarts KC-X bid process

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has restarted the bidding process for the KC-X airborne refueling tanker and sent guidelines to Boeing and a consortium led by Northrop Grumman. Boeing reportedly is considering a no-bid option.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on Aug. 6 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 was sent to Northrop Grumman (Los Angeles, Calif.) and The Boeing Co. (Seattle, Wash.) and reportedly addresses concerns the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raised about the original award of the contract to the Northrop Grumman/EADS/Airbus consortium in February, said Shay Assad, the Defense Department’s director of procurement and acquisitions policy.

Boeing, meanwhile, according to some reports, is considering a no-bid option, which could change the bidding process substantially.

The U.S. Air Force is embarking on a multimillion dollar effort to replace its aging airborne tanker fleet and in February awarded a contract for the tanker, dubbed KC-X, to the Northrop Grumman-led group. Protest from some members of the U.S. Congress, as well as from segments of the U.S. aerospace community, preceded a Boeing-prompted review of the award by the GAO, which found enough irregularities to recommend that the project be rebid. 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.

Meanwhile, Aviation Week reported on its website on Aug. 11 that Boeing is considering not rebidding for the KC-X contract. According to the report, multiple sources at Boeing say company officials are strongly considering the option of not submitting a proposal as the company’s Integrated Defense Systems sector tries to respond to the draft RFP within the government’s speedy timeline. It's unknown how the DoD would respond to a no-bid decision by Boeing and how that might or might not affect the KC-X award process.

Information: Click here for the Aviation Week report.