The U.S. Navy may have to recompete its Next Generation Jammer-Low Band (NGJ-LB), as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Sept. 3 found that a Navy employee who was negotiating employment with L3Harris Technologies [LHX] helped write the specifications and had created the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The Navy awarded L3Harris a $496 million contract last December to build four test pods and eight operational prototype pods under NGJ-LB Capability Block 1 (CB-1) (Defense Daily, Dec. 21, 2020). L3Harris beat out Northrop Grumman [NOC], which filed a bid protest.

“In this protest we sustain the allegation that an apparent conflict of interest was created when X, who was engaged in employment negotiations with L3Harris, also developed specifications for the CB-1 solicitation,” GAO said in its Sept. 3 report. “The ordinary remedy where a conflict cannot be mitigated is the elimination of that competitor from the competition…Here, we are mindful that it is neither feasible nor desirable to eliminate L3Harris from the competition and it may be possible to mitigate the conflict by engaging individuals without a conflict to review the specifications tainted by X’s conflict of interest.”

“We therefore recommend that the Navy engage individuals with the requisite technical expertise to conduct an independent review of X’s input during the relevant period of conflict on the CB-1 specifications to determine whether X’s input was consistent with the Navy’s actual requirements,” GAO said. “If the agency concludes that the specifications continue to reflect its needs, we recommend that the agency reopen discussions and request revised proposals, evaluate proposals consistent with the evaluation criteria, and make a new source selection decision. Alternatively, if the agency decides that its specifications have changed, we recommend that the agency issue an amendment reflecting its updated requirements, request revised proposals, and make a new source selection decision.”

Navy Capt. Michael Orr, the program manager for the Navy’s Airborne Electronic Attack Systems Program Office (PMA-234), said last month that he expected GAO to confirm the Navy’s award to L3Harris (Defense Daily, Aug. 2).

At the time, Orr said that he was “very confident with L3Harris and look forward to us getting relief from stop work and go forward and start getting that capability developed for the fleet.”

Orr said that just before the contract award, the Pentagon moved NGJ-LB from a mid-tier acquisition program to ACAT 1B.

Despite hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Orr said that the NGJ-LB competitors were able to demonstrate their technologies and arrays at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md., before the engineering and manufacturing development award last December.

The Navy is replacing the legacy ALQ-99 tactical jammer used by EA-18G Growlers to counter enemy air defenses and communications systems, splitting the NGJ program into low, mid- and high-band frequency contract systems.