The National Nuclear Security Administration will make a selection decision in early November on the consolidated contract to manage and operate the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, officials said.
The contract, which could be worth up to $22.8 billion over 10 years, was initially awarded in January, but it has been held up by bid protests. The NNSA is hoping to avoid a third round of protests and has asked the three bidding teams if they are willing to share confidential information to help avoid challenges “based on incomplete information and suspicions that are unfounded.”
In a statement this week, the NNSA, a separate agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, said its technical experts have finished evaluating the offers in response to corrective action taken in June, and federal officials will give each bidding team a debriefing. The three teams are Integrated Nuclear Production Solutions LLC of Oak Ridge; Nuclear Production Partners LLC, or NP2, of Lynchburg, Va.; and Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC, or CNS, of Reston, Va.
The five-year extendable contract was awarded to CNS in January, and the transition to the new contractor had been scheduled to be complete by May 1 of this year. In addition to managing and operating Y-12 and Pantex, the contract includes construction of the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 and could include the management of tritium operations at the Savannah River Site near Aiken, S.C.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office upheld one part of those initial protests in April. In that decision, the GAO raised questions about proposed savings and recommended that the procurement be re-opened and more information requested from the three teams about their proposed cost savings. The GAO also recommended that the relative size of each team’s proposed cost savings be evaluated. CNS had promised to save $3.27 billion during the next decade.
The NNSA then requested more information from the bidders.
In June, NP2, which is led by Babcock and Wilcox Co., filed another protest. The GAO issued a decision on that protest on Sept. 24. That decision dismissed as premature allegations regarding discussions and proposal revisions, denied an assertion that the National Nuclear Security Administration had to further amend the award solicitation, and dismissed as untimely NP2’s arguments regarding the application of Federal Acquisition Regulation’s requirements for cost realism analysis.
The NNSA’s statement this week said “many challenges to federal procurements are based on incomplete information and suspicions that are unfounded.
“However, because the information submitted by offerors in response to a solicitation is confidential, the Department of Energy and other federal agencies are limited in the information that can be provided to the parties involved,” the statement said.
DOE has long sought to give bidders as much information as it legally can, the statement said.
“One strategy is to request offerors permit us to release information that we cannot elect to provide on our own, with the understanding that we cannot provide the extra information unless every affected offeror agrees to its disclosure,” the statement said.
The NNSA has asked the teams whether they want to have an expanded information-sharing process with those lawyers already under a protective order from the protest of the initial award. That would involve a two-part “open book” debriefing process that will provide a more complete information disclosure than the debriefing requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the statement said.
“Under the proposed two-part open book debriefing, the first part will be a debriefing to individual offeror’s representatives on the evaluation of its proposal,” the NNSA said. “Immediately following that debriefing, the offeror’s outside counsel under the protective order will be provided an electronic copy of the complete set of source selection documentation. The two-part open book process is intended to protect privileged, proprietary, and confidential information while allowing each offeror to fully understand the basis of the source selection decision, and if at all possible, resolve any concerns regarding the award without resort to a bid protest.”
NNSA will only proceed if there is unanimous agreement.
“The individual offerors’ decisions whether or not to agree will not be communicated to any decisionmaker or to the other offerors,” the NNSA said. “Instead, we will simply convey whether there is or is not unanimous agreement.”
Babcock and Wilcox is the current lead managing and operating contractor at Y-12 and Pantex. Joining it on the NP2 team are URS, Northrop Grumman, and Honeywell.
CNS includes Bechtel National Inc., Lockheed Martin Services Inc., ATK Launch Systems Inc., and SOC LLC.
The Integrated Nuclear Production Solutions team includes Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. and Fluor Federal Services Inc.