Robbins-Gioia protests GCSS-AF award to Lockheed Martin

Robbins-Gioia Inc. last week filed a protest with the General Accounting Office arguing that the Air Force used a flawed evaluation process when it awarded a $900 million modernization contract to Lockheed Martin Federal Systems in the middle of August.

In its protest the Alexandria Va. company asserts that the Air Force should not have awarded the Global Combat Support System-Air Force (GCSS-AF) contract to Lockheed Martin because Lockheed Martin in effect had submitted two bids. Before the award was made Lockheed Martin announced and completed its acquisition of Loral Federal Systems which had submitted a separate proposal along with five other vendors.

With the acquisition Lockheed Martin had two proposals under consideration giving the company an unfair advantage said John Gioia chief executive officer of Robbins-Gioia. Lockheed Martin officials could not be reached for comment.

Bob Dornan senior vice president of the market research firm Federal Sources Inc. said Robbins-Gioia may have a strong case. "That may have unduly influenced the decision and there may be some basis for that " he said. "The Air Force may have viewed this as a way to cherry pick the best [proposals] off of each contract.... If you dangle two pieces of candy in front of someone then there's a tendency to go after it."

Past Performance Also at IssueIn addition Robbins-Gioia says the Air Force did not follow proper procedures in rating the past performances of bidders. Gioia declined to elaborate on this charge and Robbins-Gioia's attorney David Metzger could not be reached for comment. GAO refused to release the 83-page protest.

Dornan suggested that Robbins-Gioia may be referring to two contracts: Sustaining Base Information Services (SBIS) and the Defense Message System (DMS). In a fiscal 1995 Defense Department appropriations report the House Appropriations Committee criticized SBIS which Loral took over in 1994 with the purchase of SBIS prime contractor IBM Federal Systems for delays in delivering products and testing hardware as well as for overly complex software packages. DMS the DOD electronic messaging system that was awarded to Loral last year and picked up by Lockheed Martin through the acquisition is months behind schedule.

Dornan said this part of the protest has less of a chance of being upheld by GAO because previous protests of past-performance ratings were upheld only when an agency failed to follow what its request for proposals said it would do in rating past performance and if a company was rated on a different criteria than other companies.

Still Dornan believes the chance that Robbins-Gioia's protest will be upheld is negligible because GAO according to Federal Sources data upheld only one of the 38 protests it considered in fiscal 1995. Nevertheless the protest holds some weight because Robbins-Gioia has never protested or joined other vendors in protesting an award in its 16-year history. "I don't believe in protest " Gioia said. "This was a very difficult decision for me."

Under the contract Lockheed Martin will modernize the Air Force's major information systems taking applications written on mainframes 20 to 30 years ago and re-engineering them for more cost-effective and flexible platforms to be deployed at 200 bases worldwide. Unsuccessful bidders on the program included Robbins-Gioia Computer Sciences Corp. PRC Inc. TRW Systems Integration Group and Science Applications International Corp.

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