Bidder protests e-recreation award

Spherix Inc. of Beltsville, Md., has filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office over the Agriculture Department's award to ReserveAmerica of the $128 million contract for the consolidated National Recreation Reservation System.

Under the contract awarded earlier this month, ReserveAmerica of Ballston Spa, N.Y., will develop a single, interagency federal recreation information and reservation service for the Forest Service to be ready later this year. It will offer centralized shopping for more than 57,000 campgrounds, cabins, parks, and tours of national sites, historic homes and caves.

ReserveAmerica is an operating company of InterActive Corp., which also owns Ticketmaster, the ticket and reservation service.

The single site for recreation reservations is one of the original e-government projects of the Office of Management and Budget. It also represents one in a trend of super contracts as the Bush administration moves to single providers for a governmentwide service.

The new system will provide reservation services for all federal recreation facilities, including the National Park sites that Spherix currently services. ReserveAmerica was already managing state parks for California, New York, Florida and Texas, along with other agency contracts.

In a recent debriefing, Agriculture was unable to provide Spherix with any convincing rationale for its decision despite the fact that Spherix' proposal was $32 million less, said Spherix president Thomas Gantt. "USDA has announced an award which will require a substantial premium for performance of the work without identifying any legitimate basis for doing so," he said.

GAO is expected to rule on the fairness of the award on Dec. 1. Spherix filed the bid protest Aug. 23.

Protests are a very common response from bidders not selected during the procurement process, said ReserveAmerica spokesman John McDonald. "ReserveAmerica is looking forward to implementing the contract as soon as possible and expects the protest to be resolved quickly," he said.

The reservation service will have multiple sales channels, including telephone contact centers, online reservations and walk-up reservations at some locations.

Expanded service will include a Web reservations portal, at www.recreation.gov. More than 50 percent of park reservations are now made via the Internet. Two current reservation services will continue in operation until the integration is complete.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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