Eastern Shipbuilding Withdraws Coast Guard OPC GAO Protest, Will Pursue ‘Different Legal Pathway’

October 5, 2022 7:38 PM
USCGC Argus (WMSM-915). Eastern Shipbuilding Group Photo

Eastern Shipbuilding Group withdrew a protest to a June Coast Guard contract award for the second phase of the service’s Offshore Patrol Cutter program on Tuesday in preparation for a different challenge in federal court, USNI News has learned.

On Tuesday, Eastern withdrew its protest to the Government Accountability Office for the Coast Guard’s $208.26 million award to Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., for the second phase of the Heritage-class OPC program, an Eastern spokeswoman confirmed to USNI News in a statement. The contract had the potential to be worth up to $3.3 billion.

“The federal procurement process is designed to be fair and transparent. Ordinarily, the government discloses reasonable justification for its award decisions to the attorneys representing the parties in a protest. The government has declined to voluntarily disclose the information that might offer that justification. As a result, we are seeking the information and justification through a different legal pathway,” Eastern president Joey D’Isernia said in a Wednesday statement provided to USNI News.

While Eastern did not provide additional details, USNI News understands the Panama City, Fla., shipbuilder will continue to pursue the protest in federal court. Among Eastern’s grounds for the now withdrawn GAO protest included Austal having access to leaked pricing information and Austal employing a former Coast Guard officer who would have non-public information on the OPC program.

Questions on pending litigation sent to the Coast Guard by USNI News were acknowledged, but the service did not immediately provide a response.

The Coast Guard did send USNI News a release saying Austal USA was clear to begin the work on the OPCs.

“The Coast Guard today issued a notice to Austal USA, the offshore patrol cutter (OPC) Stage 2 contractor, to proceed on detail design work to support future production of OPCs. 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 offeror,” according to the Wednesday statement from the service.
“The Coast Guard on June 30, 2022, awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract through a full and open competition to Austal USA to produce up to 11 offshore patrol cutters.

The $208.26 million June award supports the detailed design and long lead-time material for the fifth OPC, with options for the production of up to 11 OPCs in total.

A spokesperson from Austal acknowledged a request for more information on the withdrawal from USNI News on Wednesday evening but did not immediately provide a response.

Eastern initially won the OPC award in 2014 but has not met production schedules for the cutter in large part due to yard damage the yard suffered during a 2018 hurricane. Eastern is under contract to build the first four OPCs.

The OPC award to Austal — known for building the 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 towing, salvage and rescue ships, USNI News saw during an Austal visit to the Mobile yard.

The service wants to buy 25 of the 4,250-ton OPCs that will serve as the future core of the Coast Guard’s cutter fleet replacement to its fleet of 29 Famous and Reliance classes of medium endurance cutters.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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