Eastern Shipbuilding Group on Tuesday withdrew a protest against the Coast Guard’s June contract award for the second phase of the Offshore Patrol Cutter program from the service in preparation for another challenge in federal court, USNI News has learned.
On Tuesday, Eastern withdrew its protest to the Government Accountability Office over the awarding of $208.26 million from the Coast Guard to Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama, for the second phase of the Heritage-class OPC program, a confirmed Eastern spokesperson to USNI News in a statement. . The contract could be worth up to $3.3 billion.
“The federal procurement process is designed to be fair and transparent. Typically, the government discloses a reasonable rationale for its award decisions to attorneys representing parties to a protest. The government has refused to voluntarily release information that might offer this justification. Accordingly, we are seeking the information and substantiation through a different legal route,” East Chairman Joey D’Isernia said in a statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday.
Although Eastern did not provide additional details, USNI News understands that the Panama City, Fla. shipbuilder will continue to pursue the protest in federal court. Among Eastern’s motives for the now-withdrawn GAO protest, Austal had access to leaked pricing information and Austal employed a former Coast Guard officer who allegedly had non-public information about the OPC program.
Questions about ongoing litigation sent to the Coast Guard by USNI News were acknowledged, but the service did not immediately provide a response.
The Coast Guard sent USNI News a statement saying Austal USA was clear to begin work on OPCs.
“The Coast Guard today issued notice to Austal USA, the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) Stage 2 contractor, to proceed with detailed design work to support future OPC production The Coast Guard issued the notice following the withdrawal of an award protest filed in July with the Government Accountability Office by an unsuccessful Stage 2 bidder,” according to the service’s Wednesday statement.
“On June 30, 2022, the Coast Guard awarded a fixed price (firm target) incentive contract through an all-out, open competition to Austal USA to produce up to 11 Offshore Patrol Cutters.
The June price of $208.26 million supports detailed design and long-lead hardware for the fifth OPC, with options for production of up to 11 OPCs in total.
A spokesperson for Austal acknowledged a request for additional information about the withdrawal from USNI News on Wednesday evening, but did not immediately provide a response.
Eastern originally won the OPC award in 2014, but fell short of cutter production schedules largely due to damage to the yard during a hurricane in 2018. Eastern is under contract to build the first four OPC.
The OPC award given to Austal – known for building aluminum ships like the Independence-class Littoral combat ships – is one of the first for its new steel line. Austal is currently building the Navy’s T-ATS Navajo-class tow, salvage and salvage vessels, USNI News said during an Austal visit to the mobile yard.
The service wishes to purchase 25 of the 4,250-ton OPCs which will serve as the future nucleus of the Coast Guard cutter fleet replacement for its fleet of 29 Famous and Reliance classes of medium endurance cutters.