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Spherix, the Beltsville, Md., company that failed in its bid to win a management contract for Recreation.gov, the online campground reservation system for the National Park Service and four other federal agencies, has filed an official protest with the federal government.
It is still unclear whether Spherix’s complaint would have any bearing on the federal government’s decision to proceed with the hiring of Spherix’s competitor, ReserveAmerica, to manage the Recreation.gov website. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Interior could not be reached for comment.
Spherix filed the complaint in late August, roughly a week before Thomas W. Gannt, the company’s CEO, announced his resignation.
“The conduct of this whole procurement has been very disturbing from the outset,” Gannt said in a press release roughly a week prior to his departure. “Initially,” he said, “USDA attempted to award a consolidated contract to ReserveAmerica without competition and we had to take them to court to block that unfair action. Then, while promising to hold a fair competition, the Secretary of Agriculture waived federal procurement law on a ‘national emergency’ basis so they could add 12 national parks to ReserveAmerica’s (existing) contract, giving them an obviously unfair advantage over other offerors.
“We expect that by filing this protest,” Gannt continued, “the proper government authorities will take the necessary time to evaluate the fairness of this award and will find it flawed. The real losers here are the camping public that will pay the bill through higher user fees, and all of the wonderful national parks who will not get to use Spherix’s real-time system.”
The United States Department of Agriculture in August selected ReserveAmerica to manage the expansion of the online campground reservation system for the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The three-and-a-half-year, performance-based contract awarded to ReserveAmerica provides for additional option periods for a total contract period not to exceed 10 years. The contract is potentially worth as much as $128 million, according to USDA.
ReserveAmerica, a subsidiary of New York City-based InterActiveCorp and sister company of Los Angeles-based Ticketmaster, will manage a single, interagency federal recreation information and reservation service through a single web portal, www.recreation.gov. The website, already online, eventually will serve as a one-stop-shop for consumers wishing to book more than 57,000 campsites, cabins and tours in federally managed parks.