Northrop Grumman says Boeing given unfair edge

The company argues that the Air Force disclosed its pricing information for the new tanker to Boeing last year, and that the Pentagon has declined repeated requests from Northrop Grumman for Boeing’s pricing information.

Northrop Grumman, teamed up with EADS North America, the parent company of Airbus, won the tanker contract last February, but Boeing successfully protested that award with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The Pentagon reopened the competition last week.

“It is fundamentally unfair, and distorts any new competition, to provide such critical information to only one of the bidders. The company will continue to work with its customer to fully resolve this issue,” Paul Meyer, a Northrop vice president, said in a statement.

 He said the competitive price information “takes on even greater importance” given the “predominant emphasis” placed on price in the competition for the tanker contract.

Northrop Grumman CEO Ron Sugar has sent two formal requests to the Pentagon asking, among other issues, why the Air Force last year disclosed pricing information and what exactly was disclosed. Sugar also pressed the Air Force to reciprocate and share Boeing’s pricing information for the previous competition.

In a briefing given to lawmakers last week, Pentagon officials said that the Pentagon has looked into Northrop’s claim and found that the disclosure of pricing information was “in accordance with regulation and more importantly that it created no competitive advantage, because the data in question are inaccurate, outdated and not germane” to the government’s new selection criteria.

“The Air Force clearly and definitively dealt with this issue, and we look forward to our first meeting with them in this competition,” Boeing spokesman Bill Barksdale said in a statement.

The Air Force usually debriefs the losing competitors after a contract award, and it is during such briefs that pricing information would have been disclosed.

Northrop Grumman and EADS plan to offer the same Airbus 330 plane as the aircraft for the tanker. Boeing, meanwhile, is weighing the option of offering both its 767 aircraft, which it entered in the last competition, and its 777.

Northrop and Boeing have 60 days to comment on the new Air Force draft request for proposals before final bidding requirements are released.