The Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Monday rejected protests by losing bidders Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] and VT Halter Marine for preliminary design work on the Coast Guard’s future medium endurance cutter, prompting the service on Tuesday to direct the winning contractors to resume their work.

The Coast Guard in February awarded three 18-month contracts worth a combined $65 million to Bollinger Shipyards, General Dynamics [GD], and Eastern Shipbuilding Group for preliminary and contract design of competing versions of the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC). The program is ultimately worth about $10.5 billion if all 25 planned ships are built.

Artist rendering of Offshore Patrol Cutter. Source: Coast Guard
Artist rendering of Offshore Patrol Cutter. Source: Coast Guard

Despite the three-month delay in work on the OPC due to the protests, the Coast Guard still plans to award the phase two detail design and construction contract to one company in 2016, a spokesman for the service told Defense Daily on Wednesday.

The GAO hasn’t released the text of its decision to deny the OPC protests because it contains proprietary and source selection sensitive information, another Coast Guard spokesman said. The GAO is working with the relevant parties to identify information that can be publicly released, he said.

The OPC is the last of the Coast Guard’s major surface fleet recapitalization programs. HII is constructing the high endurance National Security Cutters while Bollinger is building the Fast Response Cutter, which operates for days at a time, typically closer to the littorals. Affordability is the key consideration for the OPC as the Coast Guard considers transitioning the cutter to production, the service has said.

The OPC will replace a mix of aging medium endurance cutters that are costly to maintain.