Textron Systems loses bid to change Navy’s course on MCM USV contract

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The Unmanned Mine Countermeasures Surface Vehicle is recovered aboard the Manchester (LCS 14) during a test activity. (Photo courtesy of the US Navy)

WASHINGTON — The Government Accountability Office has dismissed Textron Systems’ legal challenge to the Navy’s award of a $122 million contract to Bollinger Shipyards to produce a new unmanned surface vehicle.

The contract in question is for the Unmanned Surface Mine Countermeasures Vehicle, an essential part of the technology package the Navy is developing to detect and destroy underwater mines. Textron Systems played a vital role in the research and development of this vehicle through its Unmanned Common Surface Vehicle.

Despite the company’s experience in the program, Bollinger Shipyards won the production contract awarded in April, and Textron later protested the win through the Government Accountability Office’s bid challenge process.

A bid protest is a mechanism that industry can use if they believe the government has awarded a contract improperly. They’re notoriously hard to win, and the government isn’t legally bound to respect the watchdog’s views, but federal agencies will often change course if the GAO backs an industry challenge.

Textron alleged that the Navy “misjudged Bollinger’s proposal,” made “incorrect and inadequate” cost estimates, and argued that the service’s decision was “unreasonable because it was based on underlying estimates.” erroneous,” according to the GAO ruling, which the watchdog released Aug. 9.

A Textron spokeswoman had not responded to a Breaking Defense request for comment at the time of publication.

The watchdog found that Textron’s arguments over the technical evaluation boiled down to a disagreement over how the Navy and the company interpreted the language of the solicitation.

“Essentially, Textron argued that Bollinger’s proposal could have been more detailed or based on more comparable experience. The agency, however, did not ignore this possibility, as the protester suggests,” writes the GAO, citing the Navy’s assessment of Textron’s technical factors as “exceptional” while giving Bollinger an “acceptable” rating. “.

“Specifically, Textron has not established that Bollinger failed to meet the requirements set out in the solicitation, in a manner consistent with the agency’s qualitative assessment and its adjectival rating of acceptable,” the decision continues. of the guard dog.

Textron also argued that the Navy’s analysis of Bollinger’s proposed labor rates was inadequate because it did not compare those rates to Textron’s. (GAO has redacted associated dollar amounts from its publicly available decision.)

“Textron insists that the agency was obligated to dive deeper into a comparison of the offeror’s proposals, calculating and analyzing each offeror’s split between self-performed and outsourced hours and reviewing each category for differences between bidders,” according to the watchdog.

The GAO denied that allegation on the grounds that a government agency need not achieve “scientific certainty” when evaluating projected costs, but rather must be satisfied that the information is reasonable in the context in which it is presented. are provided. In other words, if Bollinger’s cost proposals made sense in the context of that company’s proposal, then the Navy has no obligation to compare every dollar per hour to Textron’s proposal.

The company’s latest allegation of selection based on “faulty underlying assumptions” was also summarily dismissed because it largely depended on the GAO agreeing with at least some of the other complaints filed by Textron.

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