Air Force delays disputed aircraft contract by 15 months

But after Hawker Beechcraft sued in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the Air Force launched an investigation and cancelled the award to Embraer and Sierra Nevada in February, citing problems with its internal documentation.

The Air Force said its final amended Request for Proposal (RFP) will be released on April 30, allowing the companies to rebid, and the Air Force expects to choose a recipient in early 2013.

The planes will then be delivered to Afghanistan in the third quarter of 2014, about 15 months later than expected.

The contract dispute has created some tension between Brazil and the United States, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff discussed the issue with President Obama during a White House visit on Monday.

The Kansas congressional delegation has pushed for a new competition for the contract, making an argument that the American company should not have been disqualified.

Embraer President and CEO Frederico Curado, who was in Washington this week, told reporters Tuesday that the foreign allegations were disingenuous, because Embraer and Sierra Nevada’s planes would be made in Florida.

He also said that he had to trust that the process for restarting the competition was not a political one.

The rival companies are at odds over the specifications of the contract: Curado said that his company’s bid would be selected again if the specifications are unchanged, while Hawker Beechcraft Chairman Bill Boisture said that one of the biggest issues with the initial contract was how the specifications were written.

“We believe strongly that the specifications should change,” Boisture told The Hill.

The Air Force has not explained what was wrong with its documentation that caused it to cancel the contract. The Air Force said Friday that releasing information from its investigation into the contract dispute “would compromise the integrity of the on-going source selection process due to the source selection information in the report.”

The Air Force said that the investigation’s findings “were considered in the decision to amend the current RFP.” 

“The changes to the RFP will more clearly define the evaluation criteria and tighten the decision-making process,” the Air Force release said. “A new source selection team was appointed to evaluate the new proposals.”