Boeing and Lockheed Martin say they’ve filed a formal protest of last month’s Pentagon decision to award a bomber contract worth as much as $80 billion to a competitor, Northrop Grumman.
The stealthy Long Range Strike Bomber is scheduled for deployment in the 2020s as a replacement for the Air Force’s decades-old B-1 and B-52 bombers. The Boeing-Lockheed team and Northrop Grumman both put in proposals, and both teams saw the contract as crucial for their long-term military business.
The Air Force made its selection using a mostly classified process, and announced the award to Northrop Grumman on Oct. 27. In today’s statement, Boeing and Lockheed Martin said the process was “fundamentally flawed.”
“The cost evaluation performed by the government did not properly reward the contractors’ proposals to break the upward-spiraling historical cost curves of defense acquisitions, or properly evaluate the relative or comparative risk of the competitors’ ability to perform, as required by the solicitation,” the companies said.
Today’s filing sets off a 100-day timetable for the Government Accountability Office to issue a decision on the protest. Years ago, a similar scenario worked out in Boeing’s favor when the Air Force reversed the award of a tanker contract to Airbus. But as outlined last week by The Seattle Times, Boeing and Lockheed Martin have a higher hurdle to overcome this time around, in part because the Pentagon says it built an independent review into the process.