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The U.S. Army hasn’t made a decision on whether to sole-source 155 EC145s to supplement its existing fleet of UH-72A Lakotas. Skip Robinson Photo
Responding to a lawsuit filed by AgustaWestland, the U.S. Army has declared that it has not made a final decision on whether to sole-source 155 Airbus Helicopters EC145 aircraft, and does not expect to make that decision before the end of January 2015.
AgustaWestland North America filed the complaint on Sept. 19, in response to an Army notice on the FedBizOpps.gov website advising that it intended to procure an additional 155 EC145s from manufacturer Airbus Helicopters on “an other than full and open competitive basis.” The procurement is part of a controversial plan that would reduce the number of helicopter models in the Army’s fleet, in part by replacing Bell TH-67 training helicopters with UH-72A Lakotas — the military variant of the EC145.
AgustaWestland alleged that the proposed procurement is in violation of rules intended to promote competition for government contracts, arguing that its own AW119Kx and AW109 are significantly cheaper and better suited for primary flight training than the Lakota light utility helicopter. It asked the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to block the procurement with a temporary restraining order.
In a status report dated Sept. 26, however, lawyers for the U.S. government asked the court to dismiss AgustaWestland’s complaint as “not ripe for review,” because the Army has not made a final decision with respect to the competitive process to be used for the procurement. According to a declaration by Army contracting officer Paula C. Parker, the notice on the FedBizOpps.gov website is merely one step in the proposed acquisition. After the comment period closes on Oct. 4, she states, the Army will review the responses and “determine how to best procure the needed aircraft, including whether to continue with a sole-source effort.”
Parker is the contracting officer who, in June 2014, prepared the original “justification and approval” (J&A) recommending the sole-source procurement. According to her declaration, she determined in early September that the procurement required publication of a “sources sought” notice, based on guidelines in an Aug. 21 memo from Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall. Titled “Actions to Improve Department of Defense Competition,” the memo acknowledges that the DoD has recently “experienced a declining competition rate,” and dictates actions to reverse this trend.
Parker states that, if the Army does choose to continue with sole source procedures for the contract, she will need to either amend the current J&A, or draft a new one. The revised J&A would the have to be approved by nine separate offices before being submitted to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) for final approval.
“Given the amount of time typically required to complete the J&A routing cycle, the Army does not expect to determine what competition procedures it will use for this procurement before the end of January 2015,” Parker declares. Even if the Army decides to continue with a sole-source procurement, she notes, it will publish a pre-solicitation notice for 30 days, followed by a request for proposal (RFP) for 30 days, before beginning negotiation on the contract.
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims is still considering the case, and has yet to rule on AgustaWestland’s request for a restraining order.