Could the tanker contest get any more controversial?
In the lastest controversy, U.S. Aerospace, a Los Angeles-based contractor, has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, a month after bids were due to replace the U.S. Air Force’s aging fleet of refueling tanker, the company said in an 8-K filing with the SEC.
The protest was filed Monday.
Last month, U.S. Aerospace issued a press release saying the components of a tanker would be built by Antonov in the Ukraine, although the planes would be assembled in the U.S.
Boeing and EADS are the main contenders for the contract.
U.S. Aerospace hand-delivered its bid for the tanker on the date it was due on July 9 and more than half an hour before the 2 p.m. deadline, the company said in the filing. But Air Force personnel first denied the messenger entry to the base, then gave incorrect directions to the proper building. Finally, he was instructed to wait for Air Force personnel to come and get him.
“Although the proposal was arbitrarily marked received at 2:05 p.m., it was under Air Force control before the bid deadline,” the company said in the filing.
Its protest with the GAO alleges Air Force personnal may have intentionally delayed the messenger from delivering the proposal in order to create a pretext for refusing to consider it, the company said. That’s because “they have political issues with our Eastern European supplier, thus violating the requirement that the program be a fair and equal competition, open to all bidders,” filing said.
The conduct of the Air Force — such as leaking information to the press, granting one bidder a 60-day extension but denying an extension to US. Aerospace, intentionally delaying sending the company information needed to prepare the proposal — “gives rise to an appearance of impropriety regarding the conduct of some members of the Air Force,” it said.
The $35 billion tanker contest has been fraught with controversy, scandal and protests for nearly a decade. This is the Air Force’s third attempt to replace the tankers.