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Nick Wakeman

Protests still dogging NetCents 2

It’s as if the Air Force and its NetCents 2 program just can’t get away from the Government Accountability Office and the specter of bid protests.

In May, the Air Force made the full-and-open awards for the $7.9 billion NetCents 2 Network Operations and Infrastructure contract, known as NetOps. Twenty companies won prime contracts.

But the problem is that 21 companies bid, and the one losing bidder, Camber, isn’t too happy about it. The company has filed a protest with GAO claiming the evaluation process was flawed. A decision is due from GAO by Sept. 4.

Why just 20 primes and not 21? Was Camber’s proposal so off base? I can’t help but think that the Air Force should just give Camber a contract and move on.

Of course, this is NetCents, so who knows whether the Air Force will pull back the award and reconsider its decision, a move known as a corrective order, or if they’ll fight back.

In fact, I can’t help but think that the Air Force made a tactical error in not putting Camber on the contract just to avoid the distraction of a protest. The competition for task orders would sort out the winners and losers.

The NetCents 2 program has several parts; there are contracts for enterprise integration and services management, applications services, infrastructure, and products. And there are small business and full-and-open versions of each vehicle.

Each award has been followed by often multiple rounds of protests and other delays.

The NetOps contract was originally expected to be awarded in 2012, three years ago.

NetCents in many ways has become a punch line and punching bag for everything that is wrong with government procurement.

GAO issued a scathing decision in November when it sided with Computer Sciences Corp., HP Enterprise Services, Harris IT Services and Booz Allen Hamilton. They had all lost their bids for the $980 million NetCents 2 Application Services contract. GAO ruled that the Air Force failed to follow its own solicitation.

All four companies were eventually added to the contract.

What happens from here with Camber is anyone’s guess, but the Air Force’s track record isn’t good.

It’s really a shame because the original NetCents contract, NetCents 1, was often held up as an example of an efficient and well-run contract vehicle. But it was only one vehicle. With NetCents 2, the Air Force greatly expanded the scope and the number of vehicles, which increased its complexity.

The Air Force has shown tenacity in continuing to push NetCents 2 up the hill, despite the years of delays. I have no doubt that they’ll get past the Camber protest in some for. Then all of the NetCents 2 contracts will be up and running.

If the task orders come and the contractors perform, the protest troubles will fade. The Air Force can regain some of its reputation, but geez, it’s been painful getting to this point.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jun 03, 2015 at 11:29 AM


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