On October 27, the U.S. Air Force announced its selection of Northrop Grumman to begin developing the bomber under a $21.4 billion engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract. The EMD phase will be followed by procurement options for the first five production lots of 21 bombers out of a total desired fleet of 100.
Boeing and industry partner Lockheed Martin filed a formal protest with the GAO on November 6, charging that the selection process was “fundamentally flawed.” Under federal procurement law, the GAO has up to 100 days to review and either uphold or dismiss a protest.
The governmental watchdog agency announced its decision on February 16. “GAO reviewed the challenges to the selection decision raised by Boeing and has found no basis to sustain or uphold the protest,” the agency stated.
“In denying Boeing’s protest, GAO concluded that the technical evaluation, and the evaluation of costs, was reasonable, consistent with the terms of the solicitation, and in accordance with procurement laws and regulations.”
Following the decision, Northrop Grumman issued a statement saying it will “get back to work” on the bomber. During a press trip the manufacturer hosted last month, executives suggested that LRS-B production could take place in a cavernous facility in Palmdale, Calif., where it formerly built the B-2 bomber. Half the facility is now used to build center fuselages for the F-35 Lightning II; the other half is empty.
The GAO decision “confirms that the U.S. Air Force conducted an extraordinarily thorough selection process and selected the most capable and affordable solution,” Northrop Grumman said.
Boeing stood by its original protest and said it will decide on next steps in the coming days. “We continue to believe that our offering represents the best solution for the Air Force and the nation, and that the government’s selection process was fundamentally and irreparably flawed,” it said.
(Bill Carey - AINOnline News)