GAO Upholds Award of Sentinel-Class Patrol Boat to Bollinger Shipyard

Washington – The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) yesterday issued a bid protest decision that upheld the U.S. Coast Guard’s award of the Sentinel-class Patrol Boat to Bollinger Shipyards, Inc.

GAO provides a forum for bidders and offerors seeking federal government contracts who believe that “a contract has been, or is about to be, awarded improperly or illegally or that they have been unfairly denied a contract or an opportunity to compete for a contract”. Marinette Marine Corporation filed a protest with GAO on October 7, 2008 contesting the Coast Guard’s decision to award the Sentinel-class Patrol Boat contract to Bollinger Shipyards, Inc. After consideration of the protest, on January 12, 2009, GAO issued a ruling that Marinette Marine Corporation’s bid protest on the award had been denied.

“We are of course very pleased with GAO’s decision. The Coast Guard had been confident, especially given the acquisition reforms our agency has put in place and with the rigor and discipline followed throughout the process for this patrol boat contract award, that GAO would ultimately uphold the Coast Guard’s decision. I appreciate the role that GAO plays in maintaining the transparency and equity of the federal procurement process and now that GAO has issued its decision, we can proceed with this critically important Coast Guard acquisition program,” stated Rear Adm. Gary Blore, Assistant Commandant for Acquisition.

With the release of this decision, the Coast Guard and Bollinger will resume working together on this project. The 153-foot Sentinel-class patrol boat will replace the 110-foot Island-class patrol boats, which have reached the end of their 20-year service lives. This contract award is valued at $88 million. If all options are exercised, the Coast Guard could order as many as 34 cutters on this contract, for a total approximate contract value of $1.5 billion.

Bollinger Shipyards Inc., based in Lockport, La., with facilities in south Louisiana and Texas, has been producing ships for over 60 years. The Sentinel will be constructed at their facility in Lockport, La. To find out more about the Sentinel-class Patrol Boat, visit: http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition/sentinel/.

Editors note: The GAO decision contains protected information that in accordance with regulations can not be made public. GAO will make a redacted version of the decision available in the next several weeks.

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2 Comments

  1. Michael DeKort says:

    I understand that it’s an uphill climb for the protester and less than 15% of those protesters win – but something doesn’t look right here.

    – The GAO asked for two extensions that would have put the decision past the inauguration. Then 3 days before the original deadline they make their decision? What were the extensions for? Did someone press for a decision before the new administration takes over?
    Second – Previous performance is normally part of the process. Congressional aids told me that the Coast Guard didn’t evaluate previous performance of Bollinger, relative to the 123 debacle, because the DHS IG and DoJ hadn’t finished their investigation. How convenient is that? (The DoJ is also now responsible for the 123 refund acquisition.) Did the GAO ignore previous performance too or do their own investigation? If so what did they find? It’s interesting that the Coast Guard can ignore previous performance of an ICGS subcontractor and award them what may be a $1.5b contract and they virtually ignore what is very recent poor performance.
    – A little while back the DHS took back acquisition authority. Did they approve this?
    – Marinette Maine was the low bidder.
    – I was told the Coast Guard didn’t evaluate any of the Bidder’s C4ISR solution. That’s interesting because it is 1/3 or more of the cost of each boat.
    – Bollinger sued Northrop right after the protest was filed. In the suit they ask for $12m in compensation for hull and C4ISR work because the 123 contracts were canceled. In the suit Bollinger said Northrop was completely responsible for the Hull, shaft and C4ISR problems. If there was no wrong doing why try to pass the blame? Sure looks like Bollinger was trying real hard to void the blame so the GAO, DHS IG or DoJ wouldn’t come down on them or find reason to deny the FRC award. Also – we learned from the lawsuit that ICGS appears to not only be inclined to pay the $96m 123 refund but they believe they may be due compensation for the government canceling the contract because all of the 123s were lost.

    I realize there are a lot of issues that go in to issues like this. and a lot of politics. Maybe Bollinger has the best product etc. Additionally I have no problem with the people of southern Louisiana getting a big contract. They could use the break. But something seems wrong here. Did the GAO investigate Bollinger’s performance and make some kind of evaluation of that? If not shouldn’t they have waited until the DoJ and DHS IG finished their investigations – especially since they were investigating all of the potential wrong doing relative to the 123 project? Why did the GAO ask for two extensions they didn’t use? Why didn’t they wait until the new administration took over – especially since both of the extensions they asked for were after 1/20? Did the DHS and Coast Guard pull a fast one while they could? Will the Obama administration step in and review this? Can the DHS and Coast Guard keeping giving the parties involved in the 123 debacle
    more work and more money – especially since it appears that the contractors not only have not interest in paying the $96m refund but may want to be financially compensated because the government canceled the contract?

    Just like everything else – I guess time will tell

  2. Michael DeKort says:

    GAO FRC decision emboldens Coast Guard leadership

    From the Navy Times article that can be found here
    http://www.navytimes.com/news/2009/01/coastguard_frcprotest_011309/

    Statements from Adm. Blore

    “We are of course very pleased with GAO’s decision. The Coast Guard had been confident, especially given the acquisition reforms our agency has put in place and with the rigor and discipline followed throughout the process for this patrol boat contract award, that GAO would ultimately uphold the Coast Guard’s decisions,” Blore wrote in a statement released today.

    “It’s big because of the general statement it makes about our acquisition process because this is the same process we use for everything,” he said. “There is nothing unique about the patrol boat. It’s the way we do acquisitions. It’s nice that a very independent, experienced party, in the GAO, upheld that. We respect the fact that because of mistakes that have been made in the past we needed to improve our processes, and we think this upholding of the award of the contract does just that.”

    Of course the GAO’s report is not out so we do not know what they reviewed and based their decision one. We also do not know if they looked in to Bollinger’s performance on the 123project or simply chose to ignore it, as the Coast Guard did – citing that they were unable to include those issue in their determination because the DoJ and DHS IG had not finished their investigations. Said differently – it appears that the 123 issues, outstanding refund, lack of accountability or understanding of what went wrong on the 123s and the desire of the ICGS parties and Bollinger to seek compensation from the government relative to the 123s played no part in anyone’s decision here. (The Coast Guard also had to increase funding to update the 110s that never became 123s. That brings the 123 debacle monetary total to well over $200m. Imagine if ICGS were able to collect further compensation because the government canceled the 123 program) Additionally it
    appears that the GAO may have been determined to make their decision prior to the Obama administration taking over as they finished 3 days earlier than their originally projected completion date in spite of making two changes to that date – pushing the final anticipated closure date to 2/25.

    I guess we will have to wait and see what the GAO report states, what the DoJ and DHS IG come up with and what the Obama administration does with all of it.