NSF's Award of Two Research Vessels Met Requirements

PAD-82-14: Published: Jun 28, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1982.

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GAO was asked to review the appropriateness of the National Science Foundation (NSF) award of two new oceanographic coastal zone research vessels to the University of Miami and the Duke/University of North Carolina consortium.

Recognizing that energy and pollution problems were accelerating the need for research in the coastal regions, NSF supported a study to design an effective and economical coastal research vessel. The new vessel was designed to provide a stable seaworthy platform for new and expanded studies of coastal and near-shore processes such as the movement and mixing of water masses, the dynamics of continental shelf organisms, and the role of suspended particles in the seaward transport of chemicals. NSF officials stated that adding two new coastal research vessels to the fleet without releasing or retiring older vessels of equivalent or larger size would only increase surplus ship capacity. NSF expected the underutilization of the large vessels to continue. The solicitation had listed four criteria which would be used to evaluate the proposals, all of which were related to the managerial capabilities of the bidders. The evaluation was conducted in a two-step procedure: (1) an advisory group of experts from outside NSF made an initial rating of the proposals; and (2) the advisory group submitted its recommendations for consideration to an NSF evaluation panel. GAO found that the award of the first vessel was proper since the offeror was rated the highest by the official NSF evaluation panel on scientific considerations, and the assignment of the second vessel as a replacement for Duke's coastal research vessel was proper since that offeror met all the procurement requirements.

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