Pentagon Shoots Down Beechcraft Protest

Well, that was quick. Precisely one week after Goldman Sachs subsidiary Beechcraft announced that it would protest a Pentagon award of $950 million to Embraer and Sierra Nevada to build a squadron of 20 Super Tucano turboprop fighter planes for the Afghan Air Force, the Pentagon has put its foot down. It's giving the contract to SN-E, period.

No more dawdling, the Pentagon said in effect. Allied forces in Afghanistan have been waiting for these planes since December 2011 (when Sierra Nevada and Embraer were originally awarded the contract). Beechcraft had its bite at the apple once already, when it protested the award last year, had it thrown out, and forced a rebid of the contract -- and once is enough, the Pentagon said.

Citing "unusual and compelling circumstances" -- a 16-month delay in delivery of the planes, and stopwatch rapidly ticking down to the date when U.S. forces depart the country and Afghanistan must fend for itself -- the Air Force confirmed Friday that it is "overriding" demands to re-review its contract award.

Beechcraft, needless to say, is not pleased with the decision, calling it "very misguided" and criticizing "the Air Force's decision to bypass the normal GAO review process," and threatening to "review its options." It's hard to see what options remain to it, though, now that the Pentagon has said its decision is final.

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