The U.S. Navy erred in some of the analysis the service used to award an aircraft training logistics-related contract to L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace of Madison, Miss., the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says in describing its decision to sustain a protest of the deal by BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services of Rockville, Md.

The December 2011 contract award was based on a request for proposals that called for a hybrid fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, and cost-reimbursement contract for a base period of 60 days with 18 three-month option periods to provide maintenance and logistics support for Navy T-34, T-44, and T-6 trainer aircraft assigned to the Chief of Naval Air Training Command (Cnatra).

BAE bid about $397.4 million for the work compared to L-3’s offer of about $452 million, GAO notes in its decision, released March 5, but the Navy determined BAE’s proposal to be riskier.

BAE questioned some of the clarity of the L-3 offer as well as the Navy’s analysis of past-performance work. GAO acknowledges BAE’s concerns in sustaining the protest, although some key portions concerning the contract provisions have been deleted in the GAO report.

GAO says it agrees that one significant, although unidentified, contract clause “contained a significant amount of uncertainty.”

GAO says, “The clause ultimately proposed for inclusion in the contract appears to permit L-3 to unilaterally decide when the … objective is complete, and thus, how much effort the awardee must provide.”

GAO also agrees with BAE “that the record suggests that the agency may not have recognized the significant uncertainty in the clause” and “the clause ultimately proffered by L-3 does not commit the company to provide any specific level of staffing to support the … objective.”

GAO says, “The protester also challenges the propriety of the agency’s evaluation of BAE’s proposal under the experience factor as posing ‘moderate risk.’ The protester specifically argues that the agency’s assessment of BAE’s proposal as having a ‘significant weakness’ based upon the agency’s determination that BAE lacked experience with the Naval Aviation Maintenance Program (NAMP) process was not reasonably based. We agree.”

Indeed, GAO says, “We cannot find, nor has the agency identified, any discussion or mention of the NAMP experience of BAE personnel in the contemporaneous record. As such, it is unclear whether the agency was aware of the NAMP experience of BAE’s personnel but elected not to consider it, or whether the section of BAE’s (offer) setting forth the NAMP experience of its personnel was simply overlooked.”

It is also clear from the record, GAO says, that “BAE’s perceived lack of NAMP experience led in significant part to the agency’s evaluation of BAE’s proposal as posing ‘moderate risk’ under the experience factor. This perceived lack of experience was specifically mentioned … in [the] determination that L-3’s higher-rated, higher-priced proposal represented the best value to the agency. On this record, we sustain the protest.”