GAO upholds Navy contract decision

The General Accounting Office has upheld a Navy decision to hire Northrop Grumman Corp. to design the $2.9 billion DD(X) networked warships program.

GAO last month denied a protest from Bath Iron Works, a unit of General Dynamics Corp., which had challenged the selection process the Navy used to determine the winner.

In a 30-page report, Anthony H. Gamboa, GAO general counsel, said the engineering development models that the Northrop Grumman team submitted during the competition were "clearly superior" to the Bath Iron Works proposal and that they 'represented significant advances in technology, warfighting capability and survivability.'

Northrop Grumman's team of contractors 'proposed a new, more innovative approach,' the report said.

The design phase for DD(X) will include a layout for integrated combat systems and automated workstations so sailors will be able to perform several tasks, from propulsion monitoring to radar steering, at the flick of a switch. The ships' network capabilities would let sailors connect with submarines, aircraft and satellites to collect timely information, Navy officials said.

Over the next four years, Northrop's Ship Systems sector and team partners Raytheon Co. and United Defense LP of Arlington, Va., will design, build and test about a dozen engineering models for the DD(X) program. The ship will be smaller than those in the Navy's aging fleet of destroyers, and because many functions will be automated, crew sizes will shrink from 300 to about 125, officials said.

DD(X) ships also will have PCs with Internet connections in sailors' quarters.

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