Clock ticking on NGEN protest

Mark your calendars; we'll likely know by July 22 whether the Harris-CSC team will file a protest over the Navy's decision to award the $3.5 billion NGEN contract to HP.

Harris Corp. and Computer Sciences Corp. had their debrief this week, so the clocking is ticking on whether or not they will file a  protest over the loss of the $3.5 billion Navy Next Generation Enterprise Network contract.

The follow-on to the Navy-Marines Corps Intranet contract was won by the incumbent Hewlett-Packard Co. at the end of June.

Neither company is commenting on a protest, but sources indicate that the Harris-CSC team was debriefed by the Navy on July 10. The date of the debrief is critical because it kicks off a 10-day period during which a protest can be filed.

But Harris and CSC have a little extra time because a July 10 debrief makes the tenth day July 20, a Saturday. According to GAO regulations, when the tenth day falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is extended to the next business day.

In this case, that would be Monday, July 22.

Will they wait to the last moment, or will they file earlier? If it was me, I’d make the other guys sweat and file at the last possible moment. Then again, if I felt I had an especially strong case, I might want to file as soon as possible.

NGEN is a services contract that the Navy and Marine Corps will use to manage IT infrastructure network, which includes 400,000 seats and 800,000 users around the globe.

HP’s team includes AT&T, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. They were squared off against a team led by Harris and Computer Sciences Corp., whose team also included General Dynamics, Cisco and Verizon.

For an analysis of the team, click here.

A couple interesting things about the contract is that it was evaluated on a lowest price, technically acceptable criteria. The Navy said that, when the request for proposals was released last year, they didn’t expect anything custom to be built for NGEN, and that everything they were asking for was commercially available from multiple sources.

The contract also has a one-year base and four one-year options, half the time frame of the original NMCI contract.

NMCI was awarded to EDS in 2000, and has been extended several times via a continuity of services contract. The early years nearly bankrupted EDS, and weakened the company to the point that it became a takeover target for HP.

Eventually though, NMCI was turned around, and even became a referenceable account for HP. The contract brought in $1 billion year for the company.

The pricing for NGEN is lower, at $3.5 billion over five years, rather than the expected $5 billion. The Navy said it will save $1 billion over the life of the contract, compared to its current costs.

With those kinds of numbers in play, Harris and CSC are obviously giving a protest serious thought. You can’t blame them; this piece of business is just too critical.

A protest should be expected, but whether they prevail is another question. The Navy expressed confidence that they could withstand a protest, and it does seem they have been extremely methodical in their processes.

Right now, we sit and wait, so mark your calendar and count down the days with me.