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Senators Drop CSAR-X Letter Bomb on Gates

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The CSAR-X debate is heating back up again, with two powerful Senators on the Armed Services Committee telling Pentagon chief Gates they would withhold funds from the new rescue helicopter program until the DoDs investigation into the procurement process for the controversial aircraft is concluded.

Heres an excerpt...

...Complaints by Lockheed Martin Corporation and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, validated in part by the Government Accountability Office, call into question whether the Air Force has used a capabilities-based approach for this acquisition that is traceable, repeatable and feasible.

...We intend to offer an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that would prohibit expenditure of any funds for the CSAR-X program during fiscal year 2008 until the later of the 60 legislative days after DoD approves the Air Force decision or the DoD provides the congressional defense committees with written notice in accordance with established procedures.

Read the entire letter obtained by Defense Tech HERE.

Additionally, the Project on Government Oversights top investigator on this case Nick Schwellenbach - posted an interesting analysis on their site the other day...

This March, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne told Lt. General John L. "Jack" Hudson in an email that "I would like to stay with our selection" of Boeing's HH-47 Chinook helicopter for the combat search and rescue helicopter replacement (CSAR-X), according to a protest filing by rival defense contractor Sikorsky.

Lt. General Hudson is in charge of selecting the company that receives the contract for the CSAR-X. Wynne's statement came after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sustained procurement protests by rivals Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, and Congress began to scrutinize the CSAR-X program's selection of the Chinook lastNovember.

In February, the GAO ruled that the Air Force's evaluation of each proposal's costs was not made according to the evaluation criteria made in the contract solicitation. GAO recommended that the Air Force clarify its basis for evaluations and request revised proposals from the competing contractors. The Air Force released an amendment to its CSAR-X request for proposals in May, but has been met with additional protests by Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky for notaddressing the problems found by GAO. The March 3, 2007, email appears to affirm the view of some insiders that the Air Force's response to the GAO is simply a face-saving measure.

Sikorsky quoted Secretary Wynne's email in its July 2, 2007, protest of the Air Force's amended solicitation, which the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has obtained. Sikorsky obtained the email and other documents from the Air Force, which was responding to Sikorsky's legal actions, according to the protest filing. POGO does not have a copy of the email itself, so it is possible that necessary context has been left out. On its face, however, the partial quote does raise questions about the Air Force's commitment to a fairand transparent evaluation.

Wynne's email seems consistent with his answers to reporters after his February 28, 2007, congressional testimony before the House Armed Services Committee that he would "like to stay with what we got [referring to the Boeing HH-47] and get this product going as soon as possible." He also stated that the Air Force is considering whether it can take corrective action "more narrowly" than what GAO had recommended, according to a Reuters article (Andrea Shalal-Esa, "US Air Force wants no long delay on new helicopter," February 28, 2007).

"Either the Air Force is serious about fairly and transparently re-evaluating a bungled competition, or they're wasting everyone's time," said POGO Defense Investigator Nick Schwellenbach, who had been investigating the CSAR-X program. "When coupled with the evaluation inconsistencies pointed out by Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, this email seems to indicate the latter."

And pro-Lockheed/Sikorsky DT fans sent along a copy of a letter addressed to House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee chair John Murtha from former AFSOC bubba, Maj. Gen. Richard Comer, who says:

I know a couple of the guys who were on the selection board for the CSAR-X and I have talked with them about their thought process. I believe they did their jobs honestly and with a great deal of conscientiousness. I also believe they talked themselves into what they think is the right decision. Still, I disagree, and I believe they got into a group think situation and reached the wrong conclusion on what helicopter the Air Force should require

Read the entire Comer letter HERE.

Just a little CSAR-X information grab bag for you to chew over and impress your friends during the next cocktail hour conversation.

-- Christian

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