It appears that the Light Air Support program is the latest casualty of the Pentagon’s notoriously complicated acquisition process. The program was supposed to acquire 20 small “non-developmental” aircraft for use by Afghan pilots in conducting reconnaissance and ground attacks against the Taliban as U.S. forces depart. However, that required the U.S. Air Force to get the planes delivered to Afghanistan in time for the 2013 fighting season, and the service has decided mistakes were made in awarding the contract that will force it to recompete the program. Now that the lawyers are involved, there’s a real danger the planes won’t reach Afghanistan in time to make a difference — which might mean that the Kabul government can’t contain a Taliban resurgence, and U.S. forces would have to return to a country from which they had only recently extricated themselves. The Air Force needs to conduct a rigorous recompete of the Light Air Support program as quickly as possible to prevent that outcome. However, the recompete needs to include a competitive flyoff so that lawyers for the losing side can’t raise doubts about whether the best plane won. I have written a commentary for Forbes.com that you can read here.
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