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Thread: GAO Sustains Boeing KC-X tanker protest

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    Default GAO Sustains Boeing KC-X tanker protest

    Ugh. How depressing. This is the first word - I'll update links as they become available.

    Here's some more reporting. Looks like the GAO didn't agree with Boeing on everything, but it was enough to sustain the protest. Recompeting the contract will delay acquisition by a year at least and if CSAR-X is any guide, it will be more like 3-5 years.

    And here's more that lays out the six areas the GAO said the AF screwed up on.
    Last edited by Entropy; 06-18-2008 at 06:17 PM.

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default Right to the source ...

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    KC-X - GAO Backs Boeing, Demands Recompete

    Even without the detail, the GAO's statement sustaining Boeing's protest is a comprehensive condemnation of the Air Force's acquisition practices. If the Pentagon had not already fired the Air Force leadership, they would be out on their ears after this.
    I have to admit after reading the GAO report--hat tip to John--I had this same thought on leaders...

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default A different take ...

    I don't see it as an "ugh," nor an "oh boy!" It is what it is.

    Further (and while I won't link my post on this), please take it from one who has been involved a thousand times before, the fact that NG was the low bidder is meaningless to me. Meaningless. Low bids are just that, and don't account for things like poor QA, poor quality, technology transfer, ensuring workability of the product (regarding all of the forgotten items that should have been in the spec but weren't), and other intangibles.

    As one who has seen low bids come and go and compared them with bids a little higher (but come from tried and true suppliers), whether a bid beats another is sometimes a pointless indicator of its value.

    I know the sentiment - to end waste and the reign of the defense contractors, the "industry." The "man." Also, the awful, immoral, horrible Sarbanes-Oxley bill has made life absolute hell for anyone who wants to ignore the low bid and single- or sole-source a proposal. I know from experience. So one avoids doing it at all costs. This is true regardless of the industry.

    Contractors know this. They study this, they know human nature. They learn how to low bid a product. It is a not so well kept secret of the craft, and you would have to be in the business of making or reviewing technical proposals to know something about how bad the process can be.

    Believe me. Blind trust in the process, or in low bids, is naive.

    This isn't to say that Boeing's product is better than NG's. I have no idea. It is to say, however, that it means nothing to me that NG had the low bid. It neither makes the product better nor cheaper in the long run. it simply means nothing. It's just a vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow.

    I speak as one who is badly jaded from experience. There are many others just like me in the country, pitiful poster children of Sarbanes Oxley.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Danny View Post
    the fact that NG was the low bidder is meaningless to me. Meaningless. Low bids are just that, and don't account for things like poor QA, poor quality, technology transfer, ensuring workability of the product (regarding all of the forgotten items that should have been in the spec but weren't), and other intangibles.

    As one who has seen low bids come and go and compared them with bids a little higher (but come from tried and true suppliers), whether a bid beats another is sometimes a pointless indicator of its value.

    I know the sentiment - to end waste and the reign of the defense contractors, the "industry." The "man." Also, the awful, immoral, horrible Sarbanes-Oxley bill has made life absolute hell for anyone who wants to ignore the low bid and single- or sole-source a proposal. I know from experience. So one avoids doing it at all costs. This is true regardless of the industry.

    Contractors know this. They study this, they know human nature. They learn how to low bid a product. It is a not so well kept secret of the craft, and you would have to be in the business of making or reviewing technical proposals to know something about how bad the process can be.

    Believe me. Blind trust in the process, or in low bids, is naive.

    This isn't to say that Boeing's product is better than NG's. I have no idea. It is to say, however, that it means nothing to me that NG had the low bid. It neither makes the product better nor cheaper in the long run. it simply means nothing. It's just a vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow.

    I speak as one who is badly jaded from experience. There are many others just like me in the country, pitiful poster children of Sarbanes Oxley.
    For what it is worth, most Defense contracts are no longer awarded to the lowest bidder. Instead, they are awarded to the bidder that provides the product that is the best value. This is not a simple case of semantics either--it has to do with deciding which product provides the best "bang for the buck," as it were. Cost should be only one of many variables considered in source selections.

    From what I read in the GAO summary announcment, the AF may have screwed up by the way it said it was going to weight cost in its decison making process as compared to how it actually did weight cost. It also appears from the ruling that the AF may have been inconsistent in in applying life cycle cost factor methodolgies to the Boeing and NG bids. Neither of these things is the same as awarding (or not awarding) to the lowest bidder

    I'm not going to dispute that the services still sometimes get stuck with lemon low bid products, but it is not because the acquisition system (or SOX for that matter) forces that on them. Cost is supposed to be treated as an independent variable, not as the overriding factor in deciding between competing bids/proposals.
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    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    The GAO has found the AF to be at fault in the tanker contract dispute. Some suggested that the AF is broken and on the verge of collapse.

    http://www.defensetech.org/archives/004258.html
    Last edited by Ken White; 06-19-2008 at 02:17 AM. Reason: Moved to correct thread
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

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    Default Insightful Comment

    From American Pride's linked article:

    A defense analyst said the Air Force -- and the military in general -- now faces a crippled system for buying anything.

    "At this point the procurement system is so broken that I believe that we are at a structural disarmament point, and we certainly will not fund a strike Air Force," the analyst said
    He cloaked himself in a veil of impenetrable terminology.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default A counterbalance to Stevely's quotation . . .

    from the Defense Tech article provided by American Pride is also in order I think.

    You have to ask how much more can the Air Force take. Are they really that broken? Not just on acquisition but across the board. Are they more broken than any other services or is it just their time in the glass house?" the senior congressional aide said.

    . . .

    A defense analyst said the Air Force -- and the military in general -- now faces a crippled system for buying anything. (emphasis added)
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. Sydney J. Harris

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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    Default It's not just the AF ...

    To amplify on Stevely's post, in a report earlier this year, GAO evaluated 78 (I think) major DoD programs. It found almost all of them to be in trouble. (When I have time to track it down I'll post the link.) In particular, they have been hammering FCS.

    They found the critical issue was not performing the Operations Research/System Analysis (ORSA) and System Engineering up front to pin down requirements for what the services really need, and not holding firm to requirements.

    And even in cases where it is performed, it probably wasn't performed properly. Specifically, there are three communities involved - user, developer, and evaluator. All three have to perform the ORSA activities, because they have completely different perspectives. But the activity often gets caught up in arguments over whose turf it is.

    The second most critical issue is holding contractors accountable. Without going into detail, the government needs to hold the contractor to a standard of measurable technical performance for work performed. Meeting a spend plan, or treating CDRLs as just a box to check off, blindly (or willfully) accepting contractor analyses without an independent check, are all guaranteed to get the program in trouble.
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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J Wolfsberger View Post
    To amplify on Stevely's post, in a report earlier this year, GAO evaluated 78 (I think) major DoD programs. It found almost all of them to be in trouble. (When I have time to track it down I'll post the link.) In particular, they have been hammering FCS.

    They found the critical issue was not performing the Operations Research/System Analysis (ORSA) and System Engineering up front to pin down requirements for what the services really need, and not holding firm to requirements.

    And even in cases where it is performed, it probably wasn't performed properly. Specifically, there are three communities involved - user, developer, and evaluator. All three have to perform the ORSA activities, because they have completely different perspectives. But the activity often gets caught up in arguments over whose turf it is.

    The second most critical issue is holding contractors accountable. Without going into detail, the government needs to hold the contractor to a standard of measurable technical performance for work performed. Meeting a spend plan, or treating CDRLs as just a box to check off, blindly (or willfully) accepting contractor analyses without an independent check, are all guaranteed to get the program in trouble.
    It is axiomatic that scope/requirements creep on any project will cause serious problems for keeping to the original cost and schedule. Having worked on Army, AF, and Joint acquisition programs recently, I can attest that requirements instability was (and still is) a huge problem in each case. The good (?) news is that the same issue existed when I worked in the private sector (at least as far as IT development projects go) in the 1995-2002 timeframe. I suspect that has not changed.

    Holding contractors accountable circles us back to the kinds of points raised by the thread Sargent started here
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. Sydney J. Harris

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