USAF Clarifies Investigation of LAS Contract Award Focused on Internal Issues

SPARKS, NV, March 7, 2012 – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) today called on the United States Air Force (USAF) to move expeditiously to select an aircraft for its Light Air Support (LAS) Program.

Specifically, the company urges the USAF to issue a plan and timeline for moving forward with the selection process, make use of the substantial information received under its original source selection, and maintain the high standards for aircraft performance in the original Request for Proposal (RFP) that were based on the unique requirements of the LAS mission.

The company also said it received clarification from the USAF that its investigation of the LAS contract award is focused on USAF paperwork issues and not the actions of either of the offerors in the competition.  According to Air Force Spokeswoman Jennifer L. Cassidy, “The Air Forces 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.  This documentation issue was internal to the Air Force and is not the result of actions of any offeror.  The Air Force has initiated a Commander Directed Investigation (CDI) to look at internal acquisition policies and procedure.”

Given the current situation – a USAF review that is limited to internal processes, a looming deadline to get the LAS aircraft into service in Afghanistan, and more than 14 months already spent assessing the competing aircraft – SNC and its partners believe there is no reason the USAF should not now move quickly to put forward a plan for an expedited review process.

“We appreciate that mistakes happen and that the Air Force has taken a firm stance to maintain the integrity of their acquisition process.  However, we are also aware that this is the second time the Department of Defense has been frustrated in attempts to send this capability to Afghanistan,” said Taco Gilbert, Ret. USAF Brigadier General, and Vice President of ISR Business Development at SNC, referring to the cancellation of Operation Imminent Fury. “There are men and women from the United States and our allies engaged in combat operations everyday that have called for this capability.”  Currently, all fixed-wing combat power in Afghanistan is supplied by the US and other allies.

“One of my principal concerns is that there will be an effort to lower the system requirements for the LAS competition, which would jeopardize the mission,” Gilbert said. “That would mean combat forces would be saddled with an aircraft that has been determined to be ‘technically insufficient’ and that carries ‘unacceptable capability risk.’”

“The stakes are high.  The operational imperative is to get a LAS capability to Afghanistan quickly to transition security responsibilities and a redeployment of U.S. forces elsewhere. There is also a need to preserve the significant taxpayer dollars and countless hours already spent evaluating the two competing aircraft,” Gilbert said.  “Rewriting the RFP to a lower set of standards or starting the competition over at this point would endanger these goals.”

“Given the word from the Air Force, SNC and our partners are ready to move in extremely rapid fashion,” Gilbert said, adding, “at this point in the process, Hawker Beechcraft should be ready to do the same. Their reasons for standing in the way of this process no longer exist.”