The Government Accountability Office (GAO) this week officially denied Boeing’s protest of the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber contract award to Northrop Grumman.
“GAO reviewed the challenges to the selection decision raised by Boeing and has found no basis to sustain or uphold the protest. In denying Boeing’s protest, GAO concluded that the technical evaluation, and the evaluation of costs, was reasonable, consistent with the terms of the solicitation, and in accordance with procurement laws and regulations, GAO Managing Associate General Counsel for Procurement Law Ralph O. White said in a statement. “The details of Boeing’s challenges, and GAO’s decision resolving them, are classified and covered by the terms of a protective order issued by GAO for the protest.
“Accordingly, this decision must undergo a security classification review by the Air Force, and is not available for public release.”
“We look forward to proceeding with the development and fielding of this critical weapon system,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.
The LRSB contract is comprised of a $21.4 billion Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase contract plus subsequent options for the production of the first 21 aircraft. While the Air Force has not released the cost of the first 21 aircraft to the public, it has stated that “the fixed price production award supports the average per unit cost of $511 million per aircraft (stated in 2010 dollars with a production purchase of 100 aircraft),” according to the GAO statement.
“We look forward to proceeding with the development and fielding of this critical weapon system,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “This platform will offer the joint community the required capability needed to meet our national security objectives and the evolving threat environment. It is important to ensure affordability in this program and the ability to leverage existing technology as we proceed forward.”
The Air Force plans to build 100 of the stealthy, subsonic bomber aircraft to replace its fleet of aging nuclear bombers under a program finally on track after several false starts and requirements changes. Affordability was a key requirement, and the LRSB is understood to be a more austere aircraft than the more ambitious (and stillborn) Next-Generation Bomber program.
“Our nation needs this capability,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “The current bomber fleet is aging. The technology advantage the U.S. has enjoyed is narrowing. This new bomber will provide unmatched combat power and agility to respond and adapt faster to our potential adversaries.”
While Boeing officially stated it is considering its next steps, Northrop Grumman signaled its intentions to immediately get back to work on the bomber.
“Northrop Grumman is pleased that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied Boeing’s protest and reaffirmed the Air Force’s decision to award Northrop Grumman the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) contract. This confirms that the U.S. Air Force conducted an extraordinarily thorough selection process and selected the most capable and affordable solution,” Randy Belote, vice president of strategic communications for Northrop Grumman Corporation, said in a statement.
“The LRS-B is vitally important to national security and we are delighted to be resuming work on the next-generation Long-Range Strike Bomber.”