Twice rejected, DISA prepares third U.S. Navy commercial satcom solicitation
PARIS — A multi-year procurement of global satellite capacity for the U.S. Navy has again run aground in the face of a protest, forcing the procurement agency — the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) — to prepare a modified bid request for the second time in two months, industry officials said.
The latest development in the Commercial Broadband Satellite Program Satellite Services Contract, or CSSC, is all but certain to force DISA to extend the existing contract with incumbent Intelsat of Luxembourg and McLean, Virginia.
The five-year Intelsat CSSC contract expires April 30.
It was Intelsat’s protest of a September 2015 CSSC award to London-based Inmarsat’s Segovia division that first stopped the new CSSC contract award in its tracks.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December endorsed Intelsat’s protest. The GAO’s reasoning, made clear when a redacted version of its decision was published on Feb. 9, was that DISA had mismanaged the CSSC competition in ways that disadvantaged Intelsat and worked to the advantage of Inmarsat.
The third competitors, then Airbus Defence and Space and now Satcom Direct of Herndon, Virginia, did not protest.
Implicit in the GAO’s report was that Inmarsat’s bid – 25 percent less costly than Intelsat’s $440.8 million – was more costly because DISA had insisted on requirements that were subsequently waived for Inmarsat.
The GAO’s stinging assessment forced DISA in early February to issue a new request for bids, from the same three companies. Intelsat filed a fresh protest to the GAO before any of the bidders had responded, saying the new procurement suffered some of the same weaknesses of the first.
In the weeks since then, DISA has apparently agreed to modify its bid request, this time in ways that Intelsat has found satisfactory. A third tender was expected to be issued soon.
On March 11, GAO decided that DISA’s latest iteration answered Intelsat’s concerns and the agency dismissed the Intelsat protest. The GAO’s decision was published March 14.
Intelsat spokesman Dianne J. VanBeber said March 14 that the GAO’s dismissal was not judgment on the merits of the Intelsat arguments, but rather an acknowledgement that the protest would be mooted by DISA’s latest rewrite of its solicitation.