Griffin Presses Administration on LAS Aircraft Acquisition

WASHINGTON – Congressman Tim Griffin (AR-02) issued the following statement after joining other members of the Arkansas and Kansas congressional delegations in sending a letter to Rep. Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), regarding the Light Attack Support (LAS) aircraft acquisition process:

“The Obama Administration has carelessly mishandled the LAS aircraft acquisition process, and continues to offer only silence when pressed to explain why critically important safety requirements have been overlooked or ignored.  It is my hope, with Chairman McKeon’s help, that we will receive a complete explanation, so we can ensure hardworking U.S. taxpayers’ dollars aren’t wasted and the right aircraft is selected.”

Excerpts from the letter to Chairman McKeon:

We support the Secretary’s review of the circumstances surrounding the LAS contract award; however, to date the Air Force has not provided Congress with adequate information on their dissatisfaction with the original award decision.  On May 4, 2012, the Air Force released the new LAS request for proposal that has again raised serious questions about the requirements development process, including why reduced standards for pilot ejection seats are permissible.

We believe it is only through a complete understanding of the requirements development process that we can ensure the correct aircraft platform will be selected for use by the 27 identified partner countries, and possibly by U.S. Forces as well.  We ask you for your assistance in obtaining an explanation from the Air Force of the entire requirements development history for the Afghanistan LAS acquisition and to include the development of any applicable Memorandums of Requests.  This information may help restore needed confidence in this significant procurement effort.    

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Background on the LAS acquisition process:

After a year-long process in which American-based Hawker Beechcraft Defense Company, LLC (HBDC) submitted its proposal and worked closely with U.S. Air Force officials to tailor it to address varied requirements, the Administration chose to exclude HBDC from the contract competition.  Even more concerning, HBDC was unable to appeal the decision because the Administration failed to give them proper notification. 

On December 30, 2011, the Administration awarded the contract to Brazil-based Embraer S.A.  On January 5, 2012, Rep. Griffin wrote a letter to Michael B. Donley, secretary of the Air Force, asking him to explain why the Administration excluded Hawker Beechcraft from its LAS aircraft competition.  On February 28, 2012, the Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley acknowledged, “that the Air Force…is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.”  Since then, the has Air Force cancelled the LAS contract award to Embraer S.A., and General Donald Hoffman, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, has initiated a Command Directed Investigation to examine the serious problems associated with this procurement. 

To date, the Air Force has failed to provide Congress with adequate information explaining their dissatisfaction with the original award decision.  On May 4, 2012, the Air Force released the new LAS request for proposal that has again raised serious questions about the requirements development process, including why reduced standards for pilot ejection seats are permissible for the LAS Contract.