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SELECTION OF BLACKWATER FOR NAVY DEAL SPARKS PROTEST FROM RIVAL Print

Inside the Navy - December 4, 2006 - Vol. 19 No. 48

The Navy's recent decision to hire a subsidiary of military contractor Blackwater USA to transport cargo and people via helicopter has competitor Geo-Seis Helicopters crying foul, arguing the winning bidder is incapable of safely doing the job.

Military Sealift Command awarded the deal Nov. 2 to Presidential Airways Inc. of Melbourne, FL, one of six bidders. If all the options are exercised, the contract could be worth $93 million.

Geo-Seis challenged the Navy's decision by filing a protest Nov. 27 with the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.


Navy spokesman Timothy Boulay said the command is "assessing the merits of the Geo-Seis protest and is evaluating an appropriate response." The command will respond to GAO within 30 days, he said.

"The general nature of the complaint is that Geo-Seis is questioning the capabilities of the contract awardee," said Boulay.

For the moment, at least, Presidential Airways Inc. continues to work on the contract.

"No stop-work order has been issued," Boulay said. "MSC is currently determining if there is a need to issue one. This determination is part of the 30-day review."

William Browder, the CEO and president of Geo-Seis, declined to comment on the protest.

Presidential Airways Inc. did not respond to a reporter's request to comment.

The Army has blamed Presidential Airways Inc. and three other subsidiaries of Blackwater USA for a fatal crash in November 2004, when one of the company's planes flew into a mountain in Afghanistan, killing all six aboard. Last year, The Washington Post reported the Army found Blackwater USA in violation of "numerous government regulations and contract requirements" in conjunction with the mishap.

At the time, the company disputed the findings, noting the National Transportation Safety Board was conducting a separate investigation of the incident. As of press time (Dec. 1), the NTSB's final report had not yet been released, a board spokesman told Inside the Navy. In addition, relatives of the deceased are suing the company in U.S. District Court in Florida.

This is not the first time Geo-Seis Helicopters has protested a decision by Military Sealift Command on a helicopter transportation deal. In 2004, Geo-Seis unsuccessfully protested when officials awarded Evergreen Helicopters a $6.7 million contract to replenish Navy ships at sea. Up until Evergreen won that contract, Geo-Seis had been the incumbent provider of those services for nearly five years. -- Christopher J. Castelli 

 
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