Spherix protests re-award of Forest Service reservation system

Spherix Inc. of Beltsville, Md., has filed a protest against the Agriculture Department's re-award of its single federal recreation information and reservation service to ReserveAmerica of Ballston Spa, N.Y.

Agriculture's Forest Service awarded the $97 million National Recreation Reservation System contract last month to ReserveAmerica, a subsidiary of Ticketmaster, for the second time.

The Government Accountability Office last December supported Spherix's first protest of the agency's initial award to ReserveAmerica and recommended that Agriculture re-compete the contract.

Spherix filed its latest protest with GAO Tuesday, claiming a variety of flaws in the procurement, including Agriculture's failure to conduct adequate discussions, improper evaluations of the vendor's offers and failure to justify its choice of the substantially higher cost of ReserveAmerica's proposal, said Spherix spokeswoman Kathy Brailer.

The contract base period is 3 1/2 years, with options for up to 10 years and a total potential value of $97 million.

The reservation service will offer centralized information for more than 57,000 campgrounds, cabins and parks, as well as tours of national sites, historic homes and caves, through a single portal at www.recreation.gov, part of the president's Recreation One-Stop e-government initiative. The Web site is expected to be operational in December.

The contract will consolidate and expand the existing federal reservation service, now operated by ReserveAmerica, and offer one-stop shopping to the public for a wide range of federal recreation areas and facilities, including the National Park sites currently serviced by Spherix under its ongoing contract with the Interior Department.

In a post-award debriefing, Agriculture told Spherix that it received excellent ratings for its technical and management approaches and agreed that its contract was substantially lower-priced than the ReserveAmerica contract.

"This second debriefing didn't shed any more light than the first one did, which couldn't stand up to a well-reasoned protest," said Spherix CEO Richard Levin today in a statement.

The Forest Service, speaking for Agriculture, said it had not seen the protest and was unable to comment specifically. "But there's a process for working through that, and we'll work through that to its conclusion," said Forest Service spokesman Dan Jiron.

ReserveAmerica's chief operating officer Brendan Ross said, "The fact that the USDA Forest Service awarded its NRRS contract to ReserveAmerica speaks for itself."

Agriculture must respond to GAO by Aug. 12. GAO said it will rule on the protest by Oct. 20

Besides the Forest Service, participating agencies include the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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