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Air Force: Contract investigation focuses on faulty paperwork

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, March 8, 2012, at 12 a.m.

The Air Force’s investigation into the process it used to award a light air support contract focuses on faulty paperwork supporting the award decision and not the actions of Sierra Nevada Corp. and its partner, Brazil-based Embraer, or Hawker Beechcraft, an Air Force spokeswoman clarified Wednesday.

“The Air Force agreed to take corrective action and suspend the Light Air Support contract awarded to Sierra Nevada Corporation because the Air Force Senior Acquisition Executive, David Van Buren, was not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision,” Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy said in a statement. “This documentation issue was internal to the Air Force and is not the result of actions of any offer. The Air Force has initiated a Commander Directed Investigation (CDI) to look at internal acquisition policies and procedure.”

The investigation is scheduled to conclude Monday, although the investigator can ask for an extension, she said.

Late last month, the Air Force said it was canceling its $355 million contract with Sierra Nevada for 20 Embraer-built Super Tucanos after it had earlier issued a stop work order following Hawker Beechcraft’s suit with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims alleging problems with the acquisition process. The cancellation means the bidding process will be reopened.

A court document said the Air Force intends to reinstate Hawker Beechcraft to a “competitive range,” accept new proposals from Hawker and Sierra Nevada, conduct meaningful discussions with the parties and re-evaluate proposals, the Financial Times said recently. The Air Force said it also reserves the right to conduct a new competition.

In November, the Air Force eliminated Hawker Beechcraft from the competition, and in December, awarded the contract to Sierra Nevada. Hawker Beechcraft officials and members of the Kansas congressional delegation have been asking the Air Force for a debriefing on the reasons behind the exclusion without success.

Sierra Nevada on Wednesday called on the Air Force to move quickly to select an aircraft for the light air support program. The company wants the Air Force to issue a plan and a timeline for the selection process, make use of the “substantial information” received under the original process and maintain the high standards for performance in the original Request for Proposal that were based on the unique requirements of the mission, the company said.

Hawker Beechcraft said in a statement that the results of the investigation will be critical to obtaining a “fair and transparent competition restarted correctly.” The company said it’s confident the reset competition will prove that its AT-6 is the “right plane to accomplish the entire mission spectrum described in the … competition.”

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com

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