A Boeing-Lockheed Martin team has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office against the Air Force's decision to award Northrop Grumman a contract to build the Long-Range Strike Bomber, alleging the selection process was “fundamentally flawed.”
In an unusually detailed statement on its decision to protest the LRS-B contract, the company criticized the Air Force's evaluation process, saying the cost analysis the service performed didn't reward proposers' efforts to “break the upward-spiraling historical cost curves of defense acquisitions.” The Nov. 6 statement also claims the Air Force did not conduct accurate risk assessments.
“That flawed evaluation led to the selection of Northrop Grumman over the industry-leading team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, whose proposal offers the government and the warfighter the best possible LRS-B at a cost that uniquely defies the prohibitively expensive trends of the nation’s past defense acquisitions,” the press release states.
Shortly after, the Air Force released a statement, asserting its confidence in its acquisition process.
“Although it is every competitor's right to file a protest, the Air Force is confident that the source-selection team followed a deliberate, disciplined impartial process to determine the best value for the warfighter and taxpayer,” service spokesman Maj. Robert Leese said in a Nov. 6 statement. “Once resolved, we look forward to proceeding with the development and fielding of the LRS-B aircraft.”
Leese said the service will not release any program details until the adjudication process is complete.
In a statement following the protest announcement, Northrop spokesman Randy Belote said the company is “disappointed that its former LRS-B competitors have decided to disrupt a program that is so vital to national security.”
“The U.S. Air Force conducted an exceptionally thorough and disciplined process with multiple layers of review,” Belote said. “As the only company to ever design and build a stealth bomber, we offered the best solution for our nation's security. We look forward to the GAO reaffirming the Defense Department's decision so we can continue work on this critically vital program.”
The Air Force awarded the coveted bomber contract to Northrop Oct. 27. The service estimates development will cost $23.5 billion and that each aircraft will cost $564 million in 2016 dollars.
GAO has 100 days from the time of a protest filing to consider the claims and issue a ruling, which means the office should reach a decision by Feb. 14.