Blue Origin submitted a “Pre Award” protest to the GAO, arguing that the rules established by the Air Force do not allow for fair and open competition. WASHINGTON – Blue Origin filed a protest with the US The Government Accountability Office on Monday questioned the Air Force’s plan to select two providers for the next procurement of launch services under the National Security Space Launch Program. Blue Origin, a rocket manufacturer founded by Jeff Bezos and a suborbital aerospace company, submitted a so-called pre-award protest to the GAO arguing that the rules established by the Air Force do not allow for fair and open competition The Air Force is pursuing a flawed acquisition strategy for the National Security Space Launch program, “reads a Blue Origin fact sheet that explains the reasons for the protest. The Air Force intends to select two winners for the procurement of services for the start of Phase 2 of the National Security Room in 2020, to split 60/40 of all national security missions from 2022 to 2026. Four companies – United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman – are expected to enter the competition. Proposals should be submitted on August 12, the same day that Blue Origin filed the protest. According to the Fact Sheet, the company is pursuing this measure to “ensure that the terms of the call for proposals for the provision of launch services for the Air Force Phase 2 clearly promote complete and fair competition”. The RFP, which was published by the Luftwaffe on May 3, contains evaluation criteria that are ambiguous and do not comply with federal procurement laws and regulations. This subjectivity of the criteria makes it impossible to respond exactly to the RFP, “the fact sheet says. An edited copy of the complaint was received from SpaceNews. The complaint alleges that the Phase 2 call for tenders is: Contains unclear and ambiguous selection criteria. The Air Force has created a list of weighting factors that mix and match bidders’ offers and select two. The Air Force announces that it will choose any combination of providers that offer the best value. Blue Origin argues that there is no clarity about what the best value is and claims that many of the government’s technical requirements are too vague to set a precise price. Discriminating new competitors by requesting tenderers to offer a replacement starter vehicle. Blue Origin argues that deploying established companies is preferable, as new companies would not have a backup option. Blue Origin develops the New Glenn heavy-lift missile for the commercial and government market. Competition is unnecessarily limited as only two vendors receive exclusive five-year contracts. The company claims that this will maintain a market polo in the introduction of the national security space, which would lead to higher launch prices and a missed opportunity to benefit from the industry’s innovation. One source, which was aware of the protest, stated that the Blue Origin complaint is worrying that the company has publicly communicated for several months that the LSP is being stacked in favor of established carriers and new entrants,to develop the rockets for commercial and state missions. The complaint “asks for clarification of the same issues that Blue Origin has repeatedly raised in written comments and personal meetings with the Air Force,” sources said. Once it was clear that the Air Force would not change the RFP in response, the next step for Blue Origin was to turn to the GAO. The central theme of the protest is the Air Force’s plan to limit the field to two bidders to fly the entire NSSL mission over a five-year period. Blue Origin claims that this would restrict competition for a longer period than the Phase 2 contract 2022-2026. Once the Air Force has made a selection in 2020, the two companies that do not win are no longer eligible to receive funds under the Launch Service contract that the Air Force will grant to Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance and the United States in 2018Northrop Grumman has given support for missile development and infrastructure. According to Blue Origin, the Air Force is undermining its future competitiveness by cutting funding for companies that do not receive a Phase 2 contract.

Air Force and Dod leaders have not been influenced by these arguments. They insist that the Phase 2 competition strategy has been carefully thought out and planned over the last four years and that two vendors are the right number. The Air Force argues that increasing the number of Tier 2 vendors will increase the cost of all missions as each vendor would receive fewer launches. Air Force Col. Robert Bongiovi, head of the Air Force Space The investment line is focused on Phase 3, “he said. If the commercial market can support three or more vendors, they will have the opportunity to win Phase 3. And if there is enough commercial work to keep two suppliers alive, that would be an “OK,” Bongiovi said, “because we do not want to be able to subsidize the industry.” Industry insiders said that commercial players like Blue Origin are not considering this. “When I look for a supplier, I review the market and try to get as many as possible to drive competition. That’s the way every business works, “the source said. The Air Force says it wants to use commercial services, but at the same time it chooses winners and losers and tells you how big the market should be. These two statements do not match, the source said. What happens next? Once a protest has been filed with the GAO, the agency may take up to 100 days to make a decision. Although there is no formal appeal against a GAO verdict, a protester who is not satisfied with the resolution may bring the claim to federal court, according to a blog post about protests prior to the law firm Husch Blackwell award. Under the law on public procurement competition, a government agency “generally needs to specify its needs and solicit offers in a way that allows full and open competition,” the company says. However, an agency may include restrictive terms or conditions in its applications to meet the needs of the agency. “Potential bidders may protest that the request unduly limits competition,” the blog post said. To prevail against this type of protest, the protester must “demonstrate that an agency has acted unreasonably in describing their requirements, which is an area in which the agencies have wide discretion. But the shares of such a challenge may be in favor of the demonstrator because the protest is aimed at expanding the competition, which should ultimately benefit the agency. The Blue Origin protest comes just weeks before the House and Senate form a conference committee to reconcile the versions of the National Defense Authorization Act of both chambers. The Air Force is concerned about the House of Representatives’ proposal, which includes a language sponsored by House Representative Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) And the National Security Space Launch Program more competitors would add.Smith said he will not interfere in the Phase 2 competition, but wants the Air Force to give new entrants the opportunity to compete.

Source @ Blue Origin