Northrop Grumman is really, really worried that Boeing will get the march on them in the tanker competition because its KC-X pricing data was revealed during the last go-round.
"Northrop Grumman continues to be greatly concerned that its pricing information from the previous tanker competition was provided by the Government to its competitor, Boeing," Paul Meyer, vice president for Northrop's advanced technology and programs division, said in a company statement. "Access to comparable pricing information from Boeing has thus far been denied by the Pentagon."
Northrop has clearly grown alarmed after combing through the draft RFP, which places great emphasis on cost. "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," Meyer said in the statement.
Northrop may not get much traction here if Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn's briefing to Congress last week can be considered authoritative. "It is worth mentioning that Northrop Grumman has suggested that information was disclosed about its previous tanker bid that puts it at a competitive disadvantage. DoD has examined this claim and found both that this disclosure was in accordance with regulation and more importantly that it created no competitive disadvantage because the data in question are inaccurate, outdated and not germane to this Source Selection Strategy," says the briefing in a section attributed to Ash Carter, defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Of course, Boeing will fight price disclosure tooth and nail and I'm sure we will hear whispers of a protest should Boeing's pricing data be shared with Northrop. Since Boeing did offer a substantially higher price last time the company has had ample time to rejigger its bid to lower costs. That may well be part of the reason Boeing will not go with the so-called Frankentanker approach this time. During the Air Force Association conference this year, the company announced there would be no major modifications to whichever airplanes it submits for the competition.