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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Booz, SAIC square off over sole-source contract

In the protest-happy environment we have today, it is interesting to see some of the big names in the market square off against each other.

We have Harris Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp. battling Hewlett-Packard Co. for the $3.5 billion Navy Next Generation Enterprise Network, and then we have BAE Systems protesting Raytheon’s capture of the $279 million Navy jammer contract. Both of those protests came after long competitions.

But now we have Booz Allen Hamilton fighting the Army and Science Applications International Corp. over a contract that’s never been competed.

Booz filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office over the Army’s decision to sole-source a contract for chemical weapons work to SAIC. The Program Executive Office Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives issued the notice earlier this month under solicitation number W52P1J13R0106.

On July 8, the Army said it would move ahead with the award to SAIC after reviewing and rejecting two responses to an earlier notice of its intent to go the sole-source route.

The notices don’t go into detail on about the value of the work, and I couldn’t find anything on Deltek’s database, but I have to assume that the highly technical nature and risk of working with chemical weapons translates into a nice price tag.

In its justification for going sole-source, the Army said that SAIC had developed the operational plans and permits modifications needed for the work, and had “highly specialized institutional knowledge and expertise.”

The follow-on contract builds on the work that SAIC has done and a sole-source contract is a “logical continuation of previous expended activities/efforts, lessons learned, and costs,” the Army said.

A transition to a new contract would cause “significant delays” and “duplication of costs” that likely wouldn’t be recovered in a competition.

I don’t know what Booz Allen’s grounds are for the protest – I’ve reached out to them, but I haven’t heard back – but no matter the grounds, I see two things going on here:

From the Army’s point of view, a competition and possibly picking a new contractor would cost more money than it’s worth, and wouldn’t be efficient. I don’t have enough of a technical understanding of the work to comment, but it is highly specialized, and there is a limited number of companies that can do it.

I’m sure Booz Allen has company-specific reasons, but their action also says a lot about the state of the market today. The company isn’t asking for a sole-source contract; they just want an opportunity to compete.

And, to me, that speaks volumes about how tight the federal market has become.

Of course, companies have always fought to win work, but today, they also have to fight just for the chance to fight.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jul 19, 2013 at 9:52 AM

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