Losing bidders protest Navy's massive NGEN contract

Monday - 7/15/2013, 8:48pm EDT

In a move that came as little surprise to watchers of the Navy Department's years-long effort to restructure its massive information technology enterprise, the losing bidders in the $3.5 billion Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office Monday.

Navy officials decided on June 27 to award the contract to a team led by Hewlett-Packard, effectively the incumbent in the contract. NGEN's predecessor, the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet had been owned and operated by HP and EDS, a company it purchased, for the past decade.

A spokeswoman for Computer Sciences Corporation, one of the losing contractors in a competing team that also included Harris Corp., Verizon, General Dynamics and Dell said that CSC had protested the award, but said that the company is "unable to provide additional information while the protest is pending."

Given the NGEN contract's high dollar value and the winner's ability to influence the future of IT in the Navy and Marine Corps, the Navy Department clearly saw a protest coming from whoever the unsuccessful bidder was and did all it could to make its award impervious to a successful legal challenge.

Nonetheless, there's no way to prevent a protest, Sean Stackley, the Navy's assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition told reporters shortly after the NGEN award was announced.

"There is no defense against a protest, but there's absolutely preparation you can do to ensure that the government prevails," he said. "We spent an extraordinary amount of time defining our requirements, making sure we mapped that into the request for proposal, and that we adhered to that criteria absolutely, strictly into the evaluation that led to the down-select. We also conducted a number of peer reviews within DoD to ensure that that trace from requirement to RFP to evaluation criteria to the proposal itself — and all the discussions in between — followed the requirements strictly."

GAO has up to 100 days to decide on the CSC challenge, and work on a contract generally is put on hold while it's under protest. The Navy's award to HP originally contemplated a finish date of June 2014 for the award's base period, but options could extend the contract's performance period through 2018.

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