Air Force Procurement: Aerial Refueling Tanker Protest

GAO-08-991T: Jul 10, 2008

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The Boeing Company protested the award of a contract to Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation by the Department of the Air Force for KC-X aerial refueling tankers. Boeing challenged the Air Force's technical and cost evaluations, conduct of discussions, and source selection decision. Because Boeing competed for the contract, it is an interested party for purposes of filing a protest. Under the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984, GAO is required to consider protests of contract awards filed by interested parties. In deciding protests, GAO makes a determination of whether the agency's actions complied with procurement statutes and regulations.

Review of the extensive record, including a hearing, led GAO to conclude that the Air Force had made a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman. The errors included not assessing the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation rules and criteria identified in the solicitation, not having documentation to support certain aspects of the evaluation, conducting unequal and misleading discussions with Boeing, and having errors or unsupported conclusions in the cost evaluation. Accordingly, GAO sustained Boeing's protest. The redacted decision is at http://www.gao.gov/decisions/bidpro/311344.htm.

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