FirstNet contract award delayed, but agency says it’s ready for partnership

(FirstNet)

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The first nationwide interoperable communications network for first responders is facing another delay.

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) convened its quarterly meeting Wednesday to discuss its post-RFP strategy, releasing a 100-day plan that will be implemented after the network’s $7 billion contract is awarded. A press release telegraphs the agency’s readiness to move forward.

But before the agency can implement its plan, a contract needs to be awarded and new legal issues block immediate progress. One vendor that applied to the RFP, Rivada Mercury, was deemed by FirstNet not to be within competitive range of the standards established by federal acquisition regulations, thereby dropping the vendor from further consideration in the competitive process.

FirstNet-Dec-2016-Board-Meeting
(FirstNet)

On Nov. 21, the agency received a protest from the vendor with the hope of reentering the process. The consideration of the vendor’s protest is being considered by the Department of Justice, which stipulated that FirstNet would not be allowed to award its contract before March 1, thus allowing arbitration of the vendor’s protest to be resolved.

When StateScoop asked FirstNet whether the award would still be issued in 2017, a spokesperson issued this comment: ”The Department of Justice’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division has assigned counsel to defend against Rivada’s protest and is the counsel that will represent the interests of FirstNet and the federal government in this case.  FirstNet program counsel, along with DOI and DOC counsel will support DOJ’s efforts. We have no further comment as the matter is pending litigation.”

As proof of FirstNet’s readiness, the agency pointed out the creation of a network operations team and customer service team, a “forward-looking” budget, the establishment of a technical headquarters that includes an innovation and testing lab, and an independent procurement authority “to enable more efficient and decisive purchasing.”

Other vendors thought to be competing include AT&T and pdvWireless, though procurement rules do not require the agency to release the names of the vendors competing.

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