WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Protest challenges small biz joint venture's structure

Ascension Island is practically in the middle of nowhere.

Long under British control, the island sits in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean below the equator: 1,000 miles from the coast of Africa and 1,400 miles from the coast of Brazil.

Discovered in 1501, it was barren and populated by seabirds and turtles. The Portuguese introduced goats as a food source for mariners who would stop at the island.

ascension island

The circle marks the location of Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean.

During World War II, it served as an airbase for American and British planes crossing the ocean. The island's military and government usage has continued since. The British used it during the Falklands War and the airstrip was an emergency landing strip for the Space Shuttle.

Today, the U.S. Energy Department operates a climate research facility there. The island is home to one of four ground antennas dedicated to GPS systems. NASA and the Air Force have a telescope conducting deep space surveillance to track orbiting debris.

There is enough infrastructure there that the Air Force needs $113 million contract to maintain and operate facilities. This includes air traffic control, air crew support, public health, emergency medical services, law enforcement, and operating radar and telemetry facilities.

The Chugach Range and Facilities Services Joint Venture LLC is the incumbent and won the recompete, which has drawn fire from other competitors.

Yang Enterprises and Akima Range Readiness Operations both filed protests challenging the award to Chugach.

Yang is a small business headquartered in Oviedo, Florida. They filed a pair of early protests after Chugach first won the recompete last year. That protest resulted in a corrective action, but then Chugach again won the contract.

Yang and Akima (an Alaska Native Corporation like Chugach) are arguing that the evaluation wasn’t done properly. If it had been, they would have won.

But Yang is also protesting Chugach's selection as a small business. Yang isn't challenging Chugach’s status as a small business, but rather the composition of the joint venture that in Yang’s opinion disqualifies the JV from bidding as a small business.

The joint venture is comprised of two Chugach companies -- Chugach Consolidated Solutions, which owns 51 percent of the JV, and Wolf Creek Federal Services, which owns the rest, according to a Chugach spokeswoman.

As remote as Ascension Island is, the issue of joint ventures and small businesses hits much closer to home.

Joint ventures have become popular in recent years as small businesses team with others like them. They create JVs to pursue larger contracts but still qualify as small businesses. I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the rules that govern JVs, but certainly know JVs are important to small businesses.

This protest might be one to watch to see how the challenge to the JV works out and what the implications might be.

The Yang and Akima protests were filed Feb. 9 and a decision from the Government Accountability is due May 20.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:55 PM

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