Master Sleuths

Exactly how many disputed contract awards get GAO attention like the recent GAO investigation of the Air Force tanker deal? 

They don’t call it the GAO for nothin’. The recent and ongoing Boeing-Air Force flap aside, the GAO is the forum for “bidders and offerers seeking federal government contracts who believe that contracts have been, or are about to be, awarded in violation of the laws and regulations that govern contracting with the federal government.” Protests is filed, it is done so with the GAO, which will investigate and issue a “decision on whether the federal agency has complied with statutes and regulations controlling government procurement.” 

An unscientific review of decisions over the past two months revealed all but one GAO decision was either “denied” or “dismissed.” These opinions found in favor of the government and against the protester. That one decision that supported bidder claims with the words “Protest sustained,” delved into the Boeing allegations surrounding the Air Force award of the coveted $35 billion-plus aerial refueling tanker deal to European giant EADS its U.S. partner Northrop Grumman.With few exceptions, these filings appear to be dead on arrival, often because the bidder made some error, such as filing too late. As of June 25 there were 162 open docket cases. Here’s a case that piqued our interest: It appears Worldwide Primates Inc.’s case against the Army was dismissed. A recruiting issue? 

The GAO’s decision in the Boeing case seemed unusually hard-hitting when compared with language on past cases. A tough-but-thorough group? A high-vis case receiving closer scrutiny? An Air Force as riddled with challenges as portrayed? (How do they get through the day?) Was there pressure on the “watchdog” from certain defense officials and possibly FOBs (Friends of Boeing) on the Hill? 

The GAO has reported an increase in protests and has requested a budget boost to fund its master sleuths. 

Back to the Boeing decision: Though the GAO’s opinion is nonbinding, Joey the Clown is putting his money on a rebidding of the tanker contract. Stay tuned.

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