GAO counsel Kenneth Patton said in a statement that the agency on Nov. 18 sustained the protest filed by Blue Origin on Aug. 12.

WASHINGTON — The Government Accountability Office agreed with space launch provider Blue Origin that the rules set by the Air Force for its next procurement of launch services do not allow for a fair and open competition.

Kenneth Patton, managing associate general counsel for procurement law at GAO, said in a statement that the agency on Nov. 18 sustained the protest filed by Blue Origin on Aug. 12.

The decision is still under seal. GAO’s ruling was first reported by Bloomberg News.

In a “pre-award” protest, Blue Origin challenged the terms of a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the Air Force for the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, which seeks to award two contracts for launch services in support of NSSL missions. Blue Origin alleged that several terms of the RFP unduly restrict competition, are ambiguous, or are inconsistent with customary commercial practice.

“GAO sustained the protest, finding that the RFP’s basis for award is inconsistent with applicable procurement law and regulation, and otherwise unreasonable,” Patton said in the statement. According to the RFP, the government will make the two awards by deciding which combination of two independently developed proposals offers the best value to the government.

This methodology “does not provide a reasonable, common basis on which offerors will be expected to compete and have their proposals evaluated,” Patton wrote. “GAO recommends that the agency amend the solicitation.”

Blue Origin also challenged other provisions of the solicitation where GAO sided with the Air Force. “GAO found that the other challenged provisions were reasonable and in accordance with applicable procurement law and regulation, and therefore denied those protest allegations,” Patton said.

The statement says GAO’s decision “expresses no view as to the merits of the proposals that have been or will be submitted.”

GAO’s bid protest process ionly examines whether procuring agencies have complied with procurement laws and regulations.

The Nov. 18 decision was issued under a protective order because it may contain proprietary and source selection sensitive information. GAO has directed the parties to promptly identify information that cannot be publicly released so that GAO can prepare and release a public version of the decision.



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