Sikorsky files protest in Huey replacement program

Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, filed a pre-award protest recently with the Government Accountability Office over the UH-1N Huey replacement program.

The protest was filed in February.

The Air Force had been expected to award the contract by the end of June.

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Sikorsky filed the protest claiming the Air Force’s requirement to own the technical baseline on contracts is overreaching. The Air Force wants that baseline so that it can then compete future upgrades instead of sticking with the original prime contractor.

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“The positions taken by the Air force are inconsistent with the [request for proposal] and contrary to law. Those positions would require relinquishment of rights by our suppliers in privately developed software and technical data, even where that data was developed at private expense,” Steve Callaghan, Sikorsky vice president of strategy and business development, told Air Force Magazine. “This protest is about fairness and protecting private investment in intellectual property.”

The GAO has until May 23 to make a decision and the Air Force can’t award a contract until the protest is resolved.

Sikorsky filed again on March 1 with a new supplemental protest ground that provided additional information to the grounds of our original protest, according to the company.

“The additional information further highlights that the Air Force’s interpretations, as stated through its Evaluation Notices and subsequent oral statements, create ambiguous requirements that lead offerers to have different interpretations of the RFP,” Sikorsky said in a statement to The Electric. “We remain committed to supporting the U.S. Air Force on its UH-1N Huey replacement program. We are confident the Sikorsky HH-60U is the proven solution for this critical no-fail mission of protecting our nation’s nuclear missile silos and supporting the continuity-of-government mission.”

The deadline for the GAO decision in the second filing is June 11.

In early March, Sens. Jon Tester, Steve Daines, Mike Enzi, Heidi Heitkamp, John Hoeven and Mike Lee sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to raise their concerns over the delays and to request a detailed timeline on the Huey replacement program.

The Hueys are used to augment security in the missile complexes at Malmstrom, Minot and F.E. Warren Air Force bases.

“We have increasing concerns about the timeline for the program replacement of the Huey helicopter fleet,” the senators wrote.  “At a time when our nation is upgrading our nuclear arsenal due to the increased global threats and near peer adversaries, we cannot afford to continue delaying additional capabilities to secure our ICBM fields.”   

Initially, some members of Congress pushed to use an existing Army contract to replace the fleet and the Air Force attempted to use the Economy Act to sole source the replacement. But other members of Congress and the service’s legal advisors determined that an open competition was required. The Economy Act would have require the Joint Chiefs of Staff to state an urgent need for the procurement, Air Force officials told The Electric, and that hadn’t happened.

The senators’ letter to Wilson is available here.