WASHINGTON, March 11 The U.S. Air Force on
Monday defended a decision to award a contract for 20 light
attack planes for Afghanistan to U.S.-based Sierra Nevada Corp
and its Brazilian partner Embraer SA after scrapping
an earlier contract to the companies.
Competitor Beechcraft Corp said it was protesting the $428
"We are confident that this decision is well supported and
that the ... proposals were fully and fairly evaluated
consistent with the evaluation criteria in the solicitation,"
said Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick. He had no immediate comment
on whether the Air Force would issue a stop-work order.
Beechcraft, formerly known as Hawker Beechcraft, said on
Friday it would protest the decision, which followed a new
competition launched in May 2012 after the Air Force discovered
problems with its handling of an initial $355 million contract
award to Sierra Nevada and Embraer in December 2011.
The new protest is the latest chapter in the saga of the
politically charged military procurement. Brazilian officials
expressed dismay last year when the original award to Embraer
was withdrawn, and political fallout from the case also seeped
into the U.S. presidential election campaign last year.
The Air Force scrapped its earlier award to Sierra Nevada
after it found "deficiencies in the process and documentation
that could not confirm the adequacy of the previous decision in
favor of SNC," Gulick said.
On Monday, he said the latest award to Sierra Nevada and
Embraer involved "a new evaluation team, internal and external
advisers and a new source selection authority."
The Government Accountability Office, a congressional agency
that oversees federal procurement challenges, has up to 100 days
to decide the matter.
Beechcraft emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
last month. The aircraft maker said in a statement that the Air
Force decision puts 1,400 jobs in jeopardy in Kansas, where it
is based, and in other states.
Beechcraft Chief Executive Bill Boisture last week said the
company could not understand how the Air Force could justify
spending over 40 percent, or $125 million, more for the Embraer
In a statement on Friday, Embraer and Sierra Nevada said the
Air Force weighed pricing, mission capability and past
performance in deciding the latest contest.