NASA Puts $1 Billion Space Medicine Contract Out for Bids, Again

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WASHINGTON — NASA is again seeking bids on more than $1 billion of space medicine work covered under a contract that will be awarded at least two years later than planned because of prolonged sparring between incumbent Wyle Laboratories and SAIC.

The Human Health and Performance contract, released for bids Nov. 20, is a follow-on to a bioastronautics contract awarded to El Segundo, California-based Wyle in 2003 and now worth about $1.5 billion. Bids on the new contract, which will have a five-year base period with a three-year option and a two-year option, are due Jan. 29.

Wyle’s bioastronautics contract expired in April 2013, but dueling bid protests that began that spring have forced NASA to extend the deal through April 2015. The extension kept vital astronaut health services and research funded while the Government Accountability Office considered back-to-back protests from both Wyle and SAIC.

After Wyle won the Human Health and Performance contract in March 2013, SAIC filed a protest with the GAO, ultimately prompting NASA to reopen the competition.

When NASA reawarded the contract in August 2013, it chose SAIC. The following month, the McLean, Virginia-based firm — which had announced plans the previous summer to split into two companies — rebranded itself as Leidos and spun off its $4 billion government information technology and technical services unit as a publicly traded firm that kept the name SAIC and was slated to get the Human Health and Performance contract.

But Wyle filed its own protest with GAO in September 2013, arguing that NASA should discount SAIC’s lower bid — at $975 million, nearly 10 percent lower than Wyle’s — because it was submitted when the unit was still part of a much larger company with deeper pockets. This time, the GAO sided with Wyle.

“There is no dispute that ‘old’ SAIC — the offeror and awardee — did not intend to perform as the prime contractor in this matter, but rather intended that a smaller entity with substantially fewer resources that was completely separate from ‘old’ SAIC, would perform the contract as the prime contractor,” GAO said in its December 2013 decision.

NASA, the GAO said, “gave no meaningful consideration to the technical approach ‘new’ SAIC will actually employ, nor the probable costs associated with that approach.”

SAIC spokeswoman Lauren Presti told SpaceNews Nov. 25 that SAIC’s original proposal spelled out how the company would manage the Human Health and Performance contract following the corporate split.

Regardless, GAO ordered NASA to either award the Human Health and Performance contract to Wyle, or seek bids for a third time. NASA chose to seek new bids.

Wyle spokeswoman Liz Palm said Nov. 25 that Wyle will make a third run at the contract, which NASA’s solicitation says could be worth as much as $1.44 billion when options are taken into account. SAIC, however, was noncommittal about its intentions.

“We’ve seen the solicitation, and we’re evaluating it,” Presti said. “Hopefully we’ll be bidding it but we’re not certain just yet.”