Military


Sentinel Fast Response Cutter (FRC-B) Contract Competition

The Request for Proposals [RFP], issued on 22 June 2007, provided for the award of a fixed-price with economic price adjustment contract for the design, construction, and delivery, of a single FRC-B, with options for up to 33 additional FRC-Bs spread out over a period of 6 to 8 years. The RFP provided that the FRC-Bs, which were to have a minimum length overall (LOA) of 120 feet and a maximum LOA of 160 feet, would be used in the performance of, for example, search and rescue, counter narcotic, alien migrant interdiction, and maritime homeland security/defense missions Concept of Operation Scenarios.

The RFP required that the proposed FRC-B "be based on an in-service parent craft," with the parent craft having "been previously designed, built, and operated as a patrol craft in unrestricted service" that incorporated "armament, electronics, and communications equipment," and that has performed missions involving "search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties, and/or military service." Although the solicitation permitted modifications to the parent craft in order to meet other requirements set forth in the RFP, it informed offerors that the "[h]ull form and dimensions," as well as the type and configuration of "[u]nderwater appendages" (such as the number of rudders), and the "[t]ype of propulsion" (such as diesel driven propeller), were to be identical to those of the parent craft. The solicitation included detailed proposal preparation instructions, and requested, among other things, that proposals include parent craft design, management, technical, price, and administrative volumes.

The RFP requested that the parent craft design volume include "a discussion of the Parent Craft selected, the in-service application of the Parent Craft and the overall proven capability of the Parent Craft design." Offerors were informed that their management volumes were to include sections addressing their production capability, past performance, past experience, proposed project organization and management, and small disadvantaged business (SDB) participation. With regard to the technical volumes of proposals, the solicitation provided that each technical volume was to include sections addressing mission effectiveness, cutter boat launch and recovery, performance (including flank speed), and transition from parent craft to FRC-B.

The Coast Guard followed a disciplined acquisition strategy to the Sentinel Class patrol boat acquisition, including careful analysis of operational requirements; conducting worldwide market research; close consultation with Coast Guard technical authorities; use of the services of the U.S. Navy, use of independent commercial agents; a full and open competition, and an assessment of the most competitive designs put forth by industry in responses to the Coast Guardís June 2007 solicitation.

For the Sentinel Class, a total of six offerors competed. Management and Technical were equal in importance, but each are significantly more important than price. When combined, management and technical were significantly more important than price. The risk rating assigned reflect the Government's confidence in the offerorís ability to successfully perform the technical effort described in its proposal. The evaluation assessed the technical feasibility to transition from the Parent Craft design to an FRC design that would meet the requirements for ABS classification. The evaluation assessed the functionality of the design arrangements, the ability to effectively conduct missions, ability to meet acceleration, deck wetness, and slamming limits, and endurance requirements.

The Management evaluation assessed the Offerorís ability to meet the Governmentís required schedule. Other factors were level of confidence in the Offerorís ability to successfully perform this contract, the degree to which the Offeror has prior experience relevant to this project, and the overall effectiveness of the proposed project organization and management.

Price was evaluated for completeness, price reasonableness, cost realism and unbalanced pricing. Proposals were not scored, ranked, nor rated for price. The Government may determine that an offer is unacceptable if the prices proposed are materially unbalanced between line items or sub-line items. An offer is materially unbalanced when it is based on prices significantly less than cost for some work and prices which are significantly overstated in relation to cost for other work, and if there is a reasonable doubt that the offer will result in the lowest overall cost to the Government, even though it may be the low evaluated offer, or if it is so unbalanced as to be tantamount to allowing an advance payment.

Offerors were informed that the agency would award a contract to the offeror submitting the proposal determined to provide the best value to the government, considering the evaluation factors of management, technical, and price. The solicitation advised offerors that, in determining which proposal represented the best value to the government, the evaluation results under the management and technical factors would be considered equal in importance, and would be considered individually as well as collectively significantly more important than price. Offerors were further informed that their responses to the management factor would be considered under the following five subfactors listed in descending order of importance: production capability, past performance, past experience, project organization and management, and SDB participation.

The RFP also stated that proposals would be evaluated under the following four equally important subfactors to the technical factor: mission effectiveness, cutter boat launch and recovery, performance (including flank speed), and transition from parent craft to FRC-B. The solicitation also provided that "[a] proposal may be rejected as grossly deficient and excluded from further consideration for award" for a number of reasons, including the failure of the proposal to "materially comply with the [RFP's] requirements," the failure of the proposal to comply with certain requirements set forth in the RFP's statement of work pertaining to the parent craft, and where the proposal requires "a major rewrite of any section or sections . . . to permit evaluation."

The Coast Guard received six proposals from five offerors, including Bollinger and MMC. In accordance with the terms of the solicitation, the proposals were first evaluated on a "Go/No-Go" basis for compliance with the RFP's parent craft requirements. All of the proposals were found compliant with the RFP's parent craft requirements, and were subsequently forwarded to the management evaluation team, technical evaluation team (TET), and price evaluation team for their consideration. Based on its evaluation of the initial proposals, the agency included three proposals in the competitive range, including Bollinger's and one of MMC's proposals.

Revised proposals were received and evaluated, and during this evaluation the agency found a previously undetected error in MMC's proposal regarding "existing stability problems with the MMC proposed FRC-B." The SSA was "advised that without correction of this deficiency [in MMC's proposal, MMC's] proposal would no longer be competitive for award." The agency conducted a second round of discussions with the three competitive range offerors, during which MMC was advised in detail of these stability problems that the agency stated were not compliant with the RFP requirements, and offerors were again permitted to submit questions to the agency regarding their respective proposals. The agency then requested and evaluated final proposal revisions.

MMC Bollinger
MANAGEMENT
Production Capability Satisfactory /
Moderate Risk
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Past Performance Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Marginal /
Low Risk
Past Experience Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Project Organization
& Management
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
SDB Participation Marginal /
Low Risk
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
TECHNICAL
Mission Effectiveness Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Cutter Boat
Launch & Recovery
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
Superior /
Low Risk
Performance
(including Flank Speed)
Satisfactory /
Moderate Risk
Satisfactory /
Moderate Risk
Transition from
Parent Craft to FRC-B
Unsatisfactory /
High Risk
Satisfactory /
Low Risk
PRICE $1,090,561,192 $1,336,213,976

The Coast Guard considered past performance on the 123 foot conversion contract in the evaluation of Bollingerís proposal. The fundamental differences between the Sentinel Class project and the 123 foot conversion, coupled with Bollingerís previous successes in parent craft-based ship construction, significantly reduce the risk of future unsatisfactory performance. The new construction work (versus a complex retrofit of an older vessel), establishing a direct contract/management relationship, the use of outside experts in performance reviews and an independent organization classing the vessel were significant improvements from 123 foot conversion approach.

The Source Selection Authority [SSA] determined that Bollinger's proposal "provide[d] the best overall value to satisfy the U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat requirement." In making this determination, the SSA, while noting that both Bollinger and MMC had "proposed a management approach that will facilitate a successful FRC-B acquisition program," identified and described certain "[d]iscriminators between proposals."

The most significant discriminator between the proposals was the evaluation of MMC's proposal as "unsatisfactory" with "high risk" under the transition from parent craft to FRC-B technical evaluation subfactor, based on the agency's conclusion that MMC's proposed FRC-B "failed intact stability requirements for topside icing" under two operating conditions specified in the RFP. The SSA noted that the practical effect of this failure to meet the RFP's "stability requirements regarding topside icing" would be to "place[] Coast Guard personnel at risk when operating in cold conditions where icing could be encountered." The SSA found that this failure was "one that would require a major revision to the offeror's proposal" and that MMC's proposal was "ineligible for award" because of this failure.

The SSA also specifically noted "[d]iscriminators between proposals" as evaluated under the cutter boat launch and recovery technical subfactor. In this regard, the SSA noted that Bollinger's proposed FRC-B "boasts a [cutter boat] launch & recovery configuration system that improves upon a proven design that has been trialed on Coast Guard platforms for over ten years which gained it a Superior rating," whereas MMC's proposed cutter boat launch and recovery system, which was evaluated as "satisfactory," includes a feature that requires "cutter boat speed and power" for its recovery, which "[o]rganizational experience has shown . . . increases the opportunity for damage to the [cutter] boat."

Another discriminator between the proposals noted by the SSA related to the evaluation under the past performance management subfactor, where the SSA noted that the rating of Bollinger's proposal as "marginal" (in contrast to MMC's proposal's rating of "satisfactory") was "due to [Bollinger's] role in the failure of the 123' WPB conversion efforts." The SSA noted that this failure, as evidenced by the proposal's "marginal" rating, was somewhat offset by Bollinger's "receipt of 'exceptional' and 'very good' past performance assessments on U.S. Navy and Coast Guard new construction projects, similar in scope and complexity to that which will be required for the FRC-B," and the fact that the 123-foot WPB project "differs in scope from the new construction FRC-B program."

As indicated, the SSA ultimately concluded that the proposal submitted by Bollinger "meets all the [Coast Guard] requirements under the Solicitation, at a fair and reasonable price, and offers the best overall value to the Government." The agency subsequently awarded a contract under this RFP to Bollinger, and after requesting and receiving a debriefing, MMC filed a protest on October 7, 2008.

On January 12, 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, denied MMC's first bid protest, and upheld the U.S. Coast Guard's award of the Sentinel-class patrol boat to Bollinger Shipyards, Inc. The GAO found, "...the agency's evaluation of MMC's and Bollingerís proposals to be reasonable, and (that) the SSA reasonably explained and documented the bases for his selection of Bollinger's proposal for award and the reasons that MMC's proposal was found ineligible for award. MMC's contentions here provide no basis for overturning the award determination."

On February 9, 2009, Marinette Marine Corporation (MMC) gave notice to the U.S. Department of Justice of its intent to file a post-award protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. MMC protested the Coast Guard award of the Sentinel-class patrol boat project to Bollinger Shipyards. On February 10, 2009, MMC filed these proceedings under seal at COFC and requested the Court to restrict them from public disclosure. MMC requested a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order to prevent performance of the current contract that, if granted, would have stopped all work on the Coast Guard's new Sentinel-class patrol boat under the contested contract.

On February 12, 2009, a hearing took place on the MMC post-award protest of the Sentinel contract award. The judge denied the request for a temporary restraining order that would have stopped performance of the current contract pending resolution of MMC's recent protest. Work continued as planned at Bollinger Shipyards on the Coast Guard's new Sentinel-class patrol boat as the bid protest process progressed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. On February 17, 2009, MMC submitted a Notice of Voluntary Dismissal to the Court, effectively withdrawing their protest. The judge subsequently dismissed the protest with prejudice, which will in effect, preclude MMC from filing another protest on these issues.



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