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DHS’s plan to deploy fifty surveillance towers across southern Arizona is temporarily on hold, following a protest by Raytheon that the agency improperly awarded the work to rival EFW. EFW is a subsidiary of Elbit systems.
In a decision released last Thursday by the Government Accountability Office(GAO), DHS has been asked to reevaluate the competitors’ proposals, saying that it is possible Raytheon was “prejudiced by the agency’s errors” during an evaluation of proposals. GAO General Counsel Susan Poling wrote in her decision that DHS should “make a new source selection decision based on that reevaluation. Should the agency conclude that a concern other than EFW properly is in line for award, we recommend that the agency terminate the contract awarded to EFW, and make award to the new concern.”
NextGov reports that Raytheon claims EFW won the contract partly by earning credit for the past performance of an affiliated company which will not be working on the surveillance tower contract. Poling notes that DHS’s comparison of each contractor’s infrared camera systems lacked “a rational basis and evidences unequal treatment of offerors.” The department counted EFW’s enhanced digital image capability as a strength in two categories, while only counting Raytheon’s special high-resolution camera feature once.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokeswoman Jenny Burke told Nextgov that “GAO has recommended we take corrective action on a fairly narrowly defined set of issues. CBP intends to follow that recommendation and then re-assess our contract award decision. We hope to complete the corrective action by early August.” Raytheon is pleased with the GAO’s decision. “As we’ve stated previously, Raytheon is confident in the solution it proposed and we look forward to working with the Department of Homeland Security on the next steps in response to the GAO decision,” the company said in a statement.
Accoprding to HomeLand Security News Wire CBP had planned to build seven towers during the first year of a potentially eight year, $145 million contract with EFW. The deal was awarded in February after a two-year bidding among fourteen companies. If DHS cancels the EFW contract, it would be the second time the department has had to change plans for a virtual fence initiative to detect drug trafficking, human smuggling, and other illicit activities along that portion of the Southern border.
The Secure Border Initiative network (SBINet) was terminated in 2011 after being awarded to Boeing in 2006. DHS invested $1 billion in the concept, but the department later realized that the technical specifications could not be achieved without building delays, cost overruns, and camera performance issues.
Elbit Systems of America’s comment: We have reviewed the GAO’s analysis. It does not change our confidence that we proposed the very best system and the best value to address CBP’s border security needs. We are hopeful that CBP will reach the same conclusion in addressing GAO’s concerns so that we can get back to work to deploy the system in support of our Border Patrol Agents.