A whole lot of shaking went on today at the Pentagon as reports surfaced that the KC-X contract would be delayed by several months. At least one senator, Patty Murray of Washington, roared at what she called these "endless delays."
“Concession after concession has been made to keep Airbus at the table," Murray said in a press statement. "Yet we have seen no bid and no sign that they are willing to play by the rules. In fact, all we have seen are delay tactics and repeated efforts to gain U.S. market share and undercut American workers."
Well, it looks as if this was all a good deal of noise signifying nothing. Here's what Defense Secretary Robert Gates' spokesman, Geoff Morrell said in a email statement:
Despite what was erroneously reported by the AP and Air Force Times today, we are NOT delaying the award of the Tanker contract. Our plan has always been to award the KC-X contract in the fall of 2010. When I announced on March 31st that the proposal due date had been extended by 60 days, I made it clear that we believe that we can improve on the time required for evaluation and still award the contract in the same general timeframe of the fall of 2010. That remains as true today as it was then and should not be confused with changes in the contract start date.That's enough tanker drama for today.
The contract start date is simply a tool in the evaluation process. It ensures that both contractors submit their bids and build their master schedules and plans on the same time basis. When the contract is actually awarded, which can be earlier or later than the planning start date, the plans and schedules are adjusted to reflect the actual date of the award. Using a planning date sometime in the fall rather than the summer makes the most sense, especially given that proposals are not now due until mid-July.