On December 18, the Government Accountability Office released details of its decision to sustain a protest lodged by BAE Systems concerning a Navy award of the Next Generation Jammer technology-development contract to Raytheon. The GAO release was followed by a statement from BAE Systems that further illuminated circumstances surrounding the award. The future jammer program is the single most important development effort likely to be funded in the electronic-attack mission area during this decade, so the two statements deserve close scrutiny from anyone who cares about command of the electromagnetic spectrum in future conflicts.
In brief, GAO found four problems with the way in which the award was made. First, the Navy source-selection authority failed to evaluate the technical risk of proposals in accordance with the terms of the solicitation. Second, the source-selection authority is said to have ignored evidence of weaknesses in Raytheon’s proposal. Third, credit for relevant past experience was not accurately assigned, to the advantage of Raytheon and detriment of BAE Systems. Finally, the Navy is said to have conducted inappropriate discussions with Raytheon subsequent to the submission of proposals.
These findings are consistent with GAO’s past practice of only considering procedural issues in evaluating protests, rather than judging the technical merit of proposals that source-selection authorities are better equipped to assess. In response to the GAO release, BAE Systems issued its own statement containing a key detail about the jammer competition: “BAE Systems’ price was significantly lower than the awardee’s.” This previously undisclosed fact could have a material impact on how the Navy reevaluates jammer proposals as it seeks to respond to the issues raised by GAO’s decision. The Navy has sent a letter to all of the offerors — Northrop Grumman bid on the program too — stating its intention to make a new sole-source award in January.
Because the Navy is only reviewing the proposals already submitted, offerors have no opportunity to amend their bids. Thus, a decision to reverse Raytheon’s award (if it occurs) would be a tacit admission that the original source selection was flawed. The Next Generation Jammer program is potentially worth more than $10 billion to the winning team over the next two decades, and will play a pivotal role in how the joint force wages tomorrow’s wars. With warfighters relying increasingly on non-kinetic technologies to defeat adversaries, the jammer franchise could spawn additional opportunities for the winning contractor.
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