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Boeing NewGen tanker

EADS tanker

Because sometimes one facepalm isn't enough.
Letters sent to the wrong companies by mistake

The long running contest to find a replacement for the Air Force's fleet of tanker aircraft used to refuel aircraft has hit another snag. The latest gaffe happened in the bidding contest that has resulted in each of the participating bidders inadvertently being sent information on the competitors offering by the Air Force.

The Air Force accidentally sent letters to Boeing and EADS that were meant to go to the other company. The letters each company received were the Integrated fleet Aerial Refueling Assessments (IFARA) the Air Force prepared on the bidding aircraft.

Air Force spokesman Col. Les Kodlick said, "Earlier this month, there was a clerical error that resulted in limited amounts of identical source-selection information being provided to both KC-X offerors concerning their competitor's offer. Both offerors immediately recognized the error and contacted the Air Force contracting officers."

The IFARA letter is something that the Air Force prepares that outlines scenarios to determine how many of the tankers will be needed. The assessment takes into consideration fuel and construction costs reports Defense News. The IFARA is considered the biggest risk factor in the tanker bidding program.

The Air Force says that the error will not delay the bidding process and that it is taking action to ensure than an error like this is not repeated. Both Boeing and EADS offered no official comment on the errors. Executives from both aircraft companies did say that in a situation like that the only ethical thing to do was to not review the documents.

Defense News quotes on unnamed exec stating, "That kind of stuff can easily be tracked, so everyone knows you don't mess around."

Kodlick said, "The KC-X source selection will continue. This incident will not impact our schedule for source selection. However, certain aspects of the source selection have taken slightly longer than originally anticipated, and we currently expect the award to occur early next year."

It's still not clear if the error will affect the contest, despite the Air Force saying the process will not be delayed. However, if the Air Force requests another bid from the companies, the error could affect the process according to some familiar with the situation.

"We have to see whether the exchange of the data affects the competition, especially if the next round will be the best-and-final bids. Then it might be of some value to have the other person's information," said Jacques Gansler, a former Pentagon acquisition chief who teaches public policy at the University of Maryland.

This is the latest issue in the problem prone bidding process. Boeing submitted its NewGen tanker proposal to the Air Force in July 2010. EADS came back to the bidding process with a new U.S. partner in June 2010 after dropping out when Northrop-Grumman pulled out of the bidding war.





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