While Sikorsky [LMT] and Boeing [BA] submitted a proposal that was $3.6 billion lower than eventual winner Bell’s [TXT] estimated cost, new details released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) show the Army deemed the team’s bid for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FRAA) program “unacceptable” in critical evaluation areas.

A 38-page redacted report released Thursday on the GAO’s decision to deny Sikorsky’s protest of the FLRAA award to Bell specifically notes the Army specifically gave an “unacceptable” designation to the “engineering design and development” and “architecture” portions of its proposal.

The V-280 Valor. Bell photo.

 “While [Sikorsky’s] proposed price is lower, the offer is based on an unacceptable engineering design. Additionally, [Sikorsky’s] cost realism could not be fully assessed due to their unacceptable approach, which is therefore indicative of cost and performance risk. In contrast, [Bell’s] proposed price, in comparison to the design’s [independent government estimate], is reasonable and provides the best value to the government,” wrote the Army’s source selection authority for the FLRAA award, according to GAO’s report.

Bell’s V-280 Valor tiltrotor aircraft design was named the winner of the FLRAA competition in early December, beating out the Sikorsky-Boeing team’s Defiant X coaxial rigid rotor helicopter offering for the program to find an eventual UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter replacement (Defense Daily, Dec. 5).

The Army’s initial FLRAA deal to Bell is worth up to $1.3 billion but could total $7 billion if all options are picked up. 

The GAO announced its decision denying Sikorsky’s protest on April 6, concluding “the Army reasonably evaluated Sikorsky’s proposal as technically unacceptable because Sikorsky failed to provide the level of architectural detail required by the [Request for Proposal]” (Defense Daily, April 6).

“We just received the GAO’s report and will take the time to review and determine our next steps. We remain confident the Lockheed Martin Sikorsky and Boeing team submitted the most capable, affordable and lowest-risk Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft solution,” Sikorsky and Boeing said in a statement following the release of the report on Thursday.

The GAO’s report specifically cites that the Army’s evaluation found Sikorsky “did not provide allocation of functions below the system level of the logical architecture representing an incomplete functional decomposition, allocation, and traceability for the definition, application, and use of system functions.”

The report also includes the Source Select Evaluation Board (SSEB) for FLRAA’s reasoning for the “unacceptable” designation given to the “engineering design and development” factor of Sikorsky and Boeing’s proposal.

“Overall, the functional architecture provided by [Sikorsky] did not demonstrate an adequate approach to meet the requirements of the solicitation and deferred the work scope to the Weapon System Development Program where the functional architecture would be more fully defined. These significant weaknesses and weaknesses resulted from insufficient evidence and inadequately defined scope to determine how [Sikorsky’s] proposed architecture would meet the government’s MOSA and architecture requirements and presents a cost and schedule impact resulting in an unacceptable risk during the Weapon System Development Program,” the SSEB explained. 

While Sikorsky and Boeing proposed a significantly lower estimated cost than Bell, the GAO report states the engineering design and development and product supportability factors “were of equal importance and individually more important” than cost and price projections for the Army’s evaluation. 

“Overall, the RFP provided that all non-cost/price factors, when combined, were significantly more important than cost/price and that, to be considered for award, a rating of no less than ‘acceptable’ had to be received for each of the non-cost/price factors,” the report states. 

The Army’s Source Selection Authority for FLRAA deemed Bell’s proposal was “the most advantageous solution and best value to the government,” according to the report. 

GAO notes Sikorsky challenged many aspects of the Army’s evaluation and source selection decision to include “the engineering design and development factor and the product supportability factor; the cost/price evaluation; and the best-value tradeoff decision.”

Sikorsky’s protest also claimed that Bell’s proposal should have been deemed unacceptable, to include for the product supportability factor. 

“Although we do not address every argument [in this report], we have reviewed all of them and find no basis to sustain the protest. Finally, we dismiss Sikorsky’s other challenges to the evaluation and award decision on the basis that the firm is not an interested party to maintain those arguments,” the GAO wrote. 

Following GAO’s decision to deny Sikorsky’s protest last week, the Army lifted the “stop work” order with Bell on Monday (Defense Daily, April 11).