By James T. McKenna | August 30, 2007
The U.S. General Accountability Office has rejected an Air Force plan to salvage its contested procurement of a new combat search and rescue helicopter. The congressional office has just notified the service and vying bidders that it upholds Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky Aircraft's latest protests against the Air Force's proposal to re-compete the contract without considering new information from the contractors. The Air Force picked Boeing's CH-47 in November 2006 as the answer to its Combat Search and Rescue-X competition to buy 141 aircraft to replace aging Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawks. That is the service's No. 2 procurement priority after getting new airborne tankers. But Lockheed Martin, which offered a version of the EH101 with AgustaWestland and Bell Helicopter, and Sikorsky, offering a version of its S-92, fought that choice. They charged USAF calculations of life-cycle costs for the competitors were out of whack. The GAO agreed and ordered the service to re-bid the contract. When it proposed to do so primarily by seeking clarified life-cycle data only, Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky protested again. The GAO agreed again, telling the Air Force in today's ruling that it must "permit offerors to revise both the cost/price and non-cost/price aspects of their proposals in response" to the service’s new evaluation scheme. The decision could throw the procurement into court; Boeing is expected to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. It also may spur top Air Force officials to carry through on a proposal to scrap the CSAR-X competition entirely, re-combine it with a service requirement for a missile-field support and VIP evacuation helicopter, and launch a new procurement effort.